Our view: Election hinges on jobless rate
September 10, 2012 4:14PM
THE FIRST AMENDMENT
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Updated: October 12, 2012 6:04AM
Politically, the August jobs numbers offered something for both parties. The overall percentage of unemployed fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July. The White House can point to the indubitable fact that the jobless rate fell.
Unfortunately, the reasons for the decline are not good, an advantage for Republicans if they can explain them to a public quickly bored by statistics.
The rate fell because fewer people — 368,000 of them — were actively looking for work and thus weren’t counted. Worse, the economy added only 96,000 jobs, well below the number needed to keep pace with population growth.
The private sector added 103,000 jobs, but these were offset by steep drops in government employment and, surprisingly, in manufacturing, which, until now, had been a bright spot.
There was other grim news buried in the numbers: Hourly pay dipped by a penny in August to an average $23.52 an hour — but labor-force participation dropped to 63.5 percent, the lowest in 31 years. And the government downgraded its estimates of jobs created in July and August.
President Barack Obama faces two more jobless reports — one for September and one for October — before the election.
There’s a wild card that could drastically affect the jobs picture between now and then.
This week, the Federal Reserve will debate a third round of quantitative easing, a massive bond-buying program to boost the U.S. economy and particularly the housing sector.
The crowds that will turn out to hear GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Obama don’t care about quantitative easing by the Fed. They want to be reassured that, sometime in the near future, the economy will have improved enough so they can get a job if they want one.
The candidate who does that convincingly will be our next president.
Scripps Howard News Service