The unemployment rate dropped to 7.7% and 146,000 new jobs were created last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports this morning. That's stellar, actually, and the lowest the rate has been since 2008. So just how much good can these good numbers do for Obama? Those are some great numbers — Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal, who kinda lives for any kind of employment number crunching, reports that people were only expecting 85,000 new jobs. Obviously, this is good news for the people who got new jobs, and a good sign that our economy is back on its feet. And if this were about six weeks ago, these numbers would have totally helped the president (not that he needed it).
Even though a few people have argued that these are the least important jobs numbers ever, the prospect of them caught a bit of fire yesterday. It was then that the prospect of a rising unemployment rate was championed by conservatives, despite that prediction coming from Gallup, one of the most inaccurate pollsters in the game. Here's Fox News's tweet championing and reporting the Gallup prediction as fact (which was retweeted over 400 times):
GALLUP: Jobless Rate Soars After Obama Reelection nation.foxnews.com/unemployment/2…— Fox Nation (@foxnation) December 6, 2012
So, obviously, today's numbers are kind of a letdown for people who wanted to hang a poor rate on Obama's shoulders. And well, it's another whiff for Gallup.
But other than spurring political rancor, there might be some other ways these numbers will help and hurt — with or without the political weight of a presidential election behind them:
The Fiscal Cliff: The low numbers mean an Obama edge. The Washington Post's Chris Cilizza and Aaron Blake proposed that the rate could be the kind of ammunition both sides need (though, judging from the stalling negotiations, it doesn't seem likely that a number would be a magic bullet). They wrote:
A report that showed job growth improving and the unemployment rate dropping would further strengthen President Obama’s negotiating position with House Republicans. A disappointing report — unemployment over 8 percent, slow or no job growth — would hand Republicans some (badly needed) leverage to make the argument that now is not the time to be raising taxes on anyone — up to and including those who make $250,000 or more a year.
Not that opinions over who's right or who's wrong matter when it comes to this fiscal cliff (seriously, Republicans don't seem to mind that the American public is ready to blame them for all the bad stuff that might happen should both sides not find an agreement), but the new numbers should strengthen Obama's case. And he will probably won't let us forget it.
The Economy, Part I: This sort of ties into the fiscal-cliff stuff, but it looks like the Dow is currently jumping (in a good way) because of the falling rate. That's another good thing for Obama:
Hurricane Sandy/Obama's Reponse: Gosh, remember that whole Chris Christie and Obama bromance and Republicans wanting to trounce Obama on this issue? Well, it seems like the past few weeks of growing unemployment claims were sort of a bluff. We say "sort of" because you'd think a rise in unemployment claims would mean a rise in unemployment rate, and one way Republicans could have hammered home that the job Obama did in responding of Sandy wasn't ideal. For now, that doesn't seem to be an issue. But, WaPo's Neil Irwin points out that there does seem to be a bit of movement due to Sandy:
BLS says Sandy wasn't a major issue, but 20k drop in construction jobs sure looks like a possible hurricane issue to me.— Neil Irwin (@Neil_Irwin) December 7, 2012
The Economy, Part II: Of course, the biggest thing here is that we're now enjoying the lowest level of unemployment since 2008. And that's a good thing for the American people. Of course 2008 isn't ideal and we should be aiming for something pre-2008, since 2008 was right smack dab in the middle of the financial crisis, but it is one more sign that the economy is getting back on its feet ... well, until we go over the fiscal cliff.