The national unemployment rate for July rose 0.1% to 8.3%. We have now gone 42 consecutive months with an unemployment rate of 8% or higher.
On the surface, this wouldn’t be good news for President Obama. Indeed, a little over a year ago I made the case that the unemployment numbers could cost Obama his job.
At the time I wrote the article, the national unemployment rate was 9.2%. Obviously, that figure has gone down but that owes more to people dropping out of the labor force than any marked economic improvement. Labor force participation is down to 63.7%.
Yet these numbers could actually benefit Obama. If we look at the monthly unemployment rates from January to July, it has ranged between 8.0 & 8.3%. While these numbers are nothing to boast about one could make the argument that the unemployment rate is stabilizing. Things might not be getting better but they are not getting worse. If a critical number of voters think things aren’t going to get worse with Obama then he will have another four years of him in office. Assuming the unemployment numbers for August, September and October (assuming those numbers will be released the Friday before the election) are in that range it could bolster Obama’s chances.
Which is why it is incumbent upon Mitt Romney to not only convince voters that life won’t get better under Obama but that things will only improve if they elect him instead. His response to the unemployment numbers is okay but needs to be more vigorous. He has said that he will create 12 million new jobs in his first term in office. But he needs to present voters with a stark choice. Romney needs to say something along the lines of, “Do you want another four years of unemployment of 8% or higher under President Obama or do you want twelve million new jobs under President Romney? Do you want to merely survive under President Obama or do you want to succeed under President Romney?”
President Obama is counting on a complacent electorate prepared to accept 8% unemployment as a fact of life. The challenge for Mitt Romney is to shake people out of that complacency and into action.