This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the monthly jobs numbers. The news is all bad.
Payroll employment decreased by 95,000, leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 9.6 percent. The private sector’s gain of 64,000 was wiped out by the loss of 159,000 government jobs, 77,000 of which were temporary Census jobs.
Make no mistake, those are terrible numbers.
In general, bad news on employment hurts the administration and the Democrats politically. But today’s numbers won’t shape the political landscape one way or another, as close as it is to the election. There was almost no jobs report imaginable that could have made people think better of the incumbents’ economic stewardship.
The administration’s spin is that this is the ninth month in a row that the private sector has added jobs. True, that is an indication that the economy is improving. But when 15 million workers are out of a job, the underemployment rate increases (to 17.1 percent from 16.7), and the unemployment rate has been above 9.5 percent for the longest period since the Great Depression, it’s futile to argue that the private sector is growing robustly.
Similarly, the liberal, pro-government spending interpretation of the report is that the problem is Republican opposition to fiscal aid to the states, which are shedding government jobs. There’s truth to this, but remember that states could simply cut employees’ wages instead of firing them. Also, the state employee job losses are insignificant relative to the private sector job growth that would represent real recovery, that is, hundreds of thousands of jobs per month. But at least we no longer have to suffer claims that fiscal stimulus will “prime the pump” or “kick-start the economy.”