Today’s jobs report is good news for the economy, and of course by extension, the president’s re-election campaign. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent, bringing it under 8 percent for the first time since January 2009. That was fueled by the 114,000 jobs added to the economy in September, and an upward revision of August’s number from 96,000 to 142,000. (This wasn’t one of those drops in the unemployment rate because more people stopped looking for work—in fact, the rate went down despite 418,000 more Americans joining the labor force).
Within the data there are several promising individual indicators. The real estate sector added 7,100 jobs in September, a sign of an improving housing market. The restaurant and retail sectors continued to add jobs, as they have for the past year, as did the healthcare, transportation, and financial services sectors. The public sector posted somewhat rare gains—adding 10,000 jobs in September. (These gains are due in large part to a rise in state government education, which added 13,600 jobs. Recent upward revisions are due to robust hiring in local education, which added 79,000 jobs in the past three months).
The number of average hours worked went up to thirty-four and a half hours, and average hourly earnings increased seven cents to $19.81. The number of discouraged workers fell sharply, 1,032,000 to 802,000.
So things are getting better. And it’s possible—though not yet certain—that this is part of a sustained upswing. Public perceptions about the economy have been rising for the past couple of months, which many analysts attributed to people listening to Obama’s re-election campaign and simply believing the rhetoric about an improving economy. But this report, and recent upward revisions in BLS data, may paint a different (or complementary) picture, as Josh Marshall notes—maybe the strong September numbers, plus the July and August upward revisions, plus the upward BLS revision of the first half of the year’s numbers by 386,000 announced this week, means that people were noticing a real recovery that was underway before the economic indicators picked up on it.
This good news for the economy was naturally unwelcome in conservative circles.The jobs report prompted a round of conspiracy theorizing from right-wingers who believe BLS is cooking the books for Obama—this has been floated by everyone from media types like Joe Scarborough and Laura Ingraham, to elected officials like Representative Allen West.
This can easily be debunked (see here and here), but let’s be clear—a real recovery remains quite elusive. An unemployment rate of 7.8 percent is by no means desirable, nor is monthly job growth of under 150,000.
Ironically, there are plenty of things to complain about in today’s jobs report. Republicans didn’t need to immediately dive off the deep end and start talking about Alinsky-ite tactics at BLS. So, some free advice for sane Republicans—talk about this instead if you want to score points:
• At the rate of job growth shown in the September report, it will take more than a decade to reach full employment.
• The duration measures for unemployment all increased in September, meaning people are staying jobless longer.
• The number of people involuntarily working part-time rose 581,000.
• Obama has been touting his plans to revive the manufacturing sector, promising in ads to add 1 million jobs there. He hasn’t done a great job of that recently, though—manufacturing employment shed 16,000 jobs last month after dropping 22,000 in August. (The unemployment rate in that sector is “only” 6.7 percent, though).
• Blacks, Hispanics, and teenagers reaped virtually no benefit from the recent upswing in employment.
For more on the conspiracy theorizing surrounding the latest jobs report, check out Greg Mitchell’s latest.