U.S. unemployment fell beneath 8 percent in September for the first time since January 2009, to 7.8 percent, the cheeriest piece of news in a jobs report with implications for the presidential campaign.
The good news: Total employment rose by 873,000 in September, following 3 months of little change, according to the household survey released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have risen by 1.8 percent. Revisions to the job creation numbers for July and August were both positive: “The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for July was revised from +141,000 to +181,000, and the change for August was revised from +96,000 to +142,000.”
The mixed news: The largely positive household survey part of the monthly report also showed that the number of people working part-time jobs rose from 8 million to 8.6 million. The survey of establishments, the other half of Friday morning’s report, showed the economy added 114,000 jobs on the month, compared to a 2012 average of 146,000 jobs per month. That's modest growth, but a slower
Industries that gained: Health care added 44,000 jobs in September. Transportation, warehousing, financial activities all posted solid gains.
Industries that lost: Manufacturing shed 16,000 jobs. Computer and electronics jobs, and printing-related positions also declined.
Election implications: The economy is the key issue in the election, and both campaigns are watching to see if the jobs report works to their advantage on the trail. In Minnesota, almost half of likely voters – 48 percent – say they will vote for the presidential candidate they believe can fix the economy, making it by far their biggest concern in the election, according to the Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll in September.
I tend to agree with Richard Longworth, at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, who thinks neither Romney nor Obama can fix the long-term problems that hold back the U.S. economy:
“The presidential election, now a month away, may or may not produce solutions to the immediate problems, such as the deficit, that ail us. But no matter which candidate wins, he won't be able to deal with the deeper problems -- the collapse of the American middle class, the vast inequalities between the rich and the rest, and the decline in this nation's ability to support its people. The reason is globalization.”
But the news cycle today will likely be focused on Obama’s camp pointing to falling unemployment as a victory and Romney’s camp pointing to the continued sluggish job growth highlighted in the establishment survey.
Storm in teapot: Jack Welch, the famous former CEO of GE, who has been critical of Obama, called the numbers "unbelievable" on Twitter, causing a bit of a stir. The Labor Department quickly dismissed the charge that the numbers were cooked. Matthew Yglesias at Slate argued it's a blessing the Bureau of Labor Statistics is so widely respected. The data is largely trusted, and useful for "democracy and capitalist prosperity alike," he wrote.