In the final jobs report prior to the election, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has announced that unemployment crept up in October to 7.9 percent, as 170,000 nonfarm payroll jobs were added. The broader "U-6" unemployment statistic is 14.6 percent (up a hair from 14.5 six months ago). August and September's numbers were both revised upward, which is a positive sign. As Jim Pethokoukis notes, average monthly job growth in 2012 has been nearly identical to the sub-par numbers of 2011, and hourly wages remain stagnant at best. The "worst recovery since the Great Depression" continues. Politically speaking, both sides will point to the figures that boost their chances, and the mixed news will certainly allow for that sort of jockeying. Democrats will correctly say that the jobs added number was better than expected; Republicans will correctly argue that job creation has been languishing, and that the overall rate is again headed in the wrong direction. These facts remain: Roughly 23 million Americans are out of work, have given up looking for work, or are under-employed. Median household take-home pay has fallen by nearly $4,300 annually since this president took office. And upon passing the $825 Billion "stimulus" package, the administration confidently projected that unemployment would be approximately 5.2 percent by now. Instead, we're stuck near or above eight percent for the 45th consecutive month. Forward?
UPDATE - CNBC on the workforce particpation rate:
The labor force participation rate, a key metric that measures those working and looking for jobs, edged higher to 63.8 percent after wallowing around 31-year lows for the past several months.
It's still right there. Former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin offers a balanced assessment of today's report:
- Job creation in August and September was revised up by a total of 84,000 jobs.
- Job creation was more broadly spread than in previous months, with increases in both the goods- and services-producing sectors.
- The labor force grew by 578,000 and the participation rate rebounded by 0.2 percent to 63.8 percent.
However, the report was not unambiguous good news, as the foundations of income growth weakened:
- Average weekly hours of work declined.
- Average hourly earnings declined.
- The average weekly earnings and index of weekly hours showed sharp declines.
- The Hispanic unemployment rate mirrored the overall rate, rising from 9.9 to 10.0.
There will be celebration in some quarters over the top line job growth, but this is a triumph of diminished expectations. The report is a solid base hit - not a home run - in a game where the U.S. is over 20 million runs behind.
The Romney campaign will certainly use these new numbers to emphasize their central theme: That America needs a real, robust recovery -- not one that limps along in fits and starts.
UPDATE II - Romney expresses dismay at our economy's "virtual standstill" (via his campaign):
“Today’s increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill. The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23 million Americans struggling for work. On Tuesday, America will make a choice between stagnation and prosperity. For four years, President Obama’s policies have crushed America’s middle class. For four years, President Obama has told us that things are getting better and that we’re making progress. For too many American families, those words ring hollow. We can do better. We can have real economic growth, create millions of good-paying jobs, and give middle-class families the security and opportunity they deserve. When I’m president, I’m going to make real changes that lead to a real recovery, so that the next four years are better than the last.”
UPDATE III - Ahem:
Black/African American unemployment rate jumps from 13.4 to 14.3, Hispanic unemployment rate rises from 9.9 to 10.0.— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) November 2, 2012
UPDATE IV - Be sure to review this summary infographic from American Commitment.