Obama's pleasant October surprise

Man demonstrates for good jobs in Charlotte, North Carolina 3 September 2012 Unemployment is considered to be a key issue in the presidential election

The president had some good news at the end of a bad week

"This morning, we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since I took office."

After his lame debate performance, he sounded as if he'd rediscovered his mojo, and there was steel in his voice.

The Bureau of Labor statistics report is indeed welcome for the president saying that unemployment dropped to 7.8% in September with 114,000 new jobs created.

The internet is alive with blast and counter-blasts. Some say this will change the campaign, others that these jobs figures, so eagerly awaited by us hacks, have no impact on the race.

What changes?

To listen to some people you would think nothing has an impact on the election. The fact is perceptions are changed slowly, by a drip, drip, drip of information and persuasion. Only truly exceptional moments change an election campaign overnight.

This is not one of those moments. But it is significant.

Unemployment was below 8% when the president came to office. It rose to 10.2% later that year. But this is the first time it has dropped below 8% in 44 months.

It has been central to the Republican message that it is Mr Obama's fault that the recovery has not been quicker and stronger. They won't stop making that case.

Mitt Romney, at a rally in Virginia on Thursday, said that the real figure, including people who have stopped looking for work, is 11%.

His campaign picked up on the reports that found the manufacturing sector lost 16,000 jobs last month.

It said in a statement: "Today's sluggish jobs report reinforced what Americans already knew - we can't afford another four years like the last four years. Manufacturing is in decline and 23 million Americans are still struggling for work".

But the news does matter. This is what it does:

It stops the media talking about Mr Obama's bad debate, the story has moved on.

It stops any narrative that things are going wrong for Mr Obama - imagine if unemployment had gone up, on top of the debate.

It robs Mitt Romney of an easy campaign point about unemployment staying over 8% under Mr Obama, but not his overall economic argument.

It suggests the economy is heading in the right direction, albeit very slowly - it makes Mr Obama's stewardship of the economy look a bit better, although there is plenty of room to argue about that.

It doesn't change the general view that the American economy is recovering, but growth is very slow, and jobs are only coming back very slowly too.

Not sensational game-changing news for Mr Obama, but good news for him none the less, and at the very least a relief.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    "People like Romney & Bush who purchased 'education' & degrees"

    If memory serves, John Kerry (D), a multimillioner, had worse grades than G.W. Bush at Yale.

    Any rational explanation?

    [I won't go into Joseph Kennedy (D) buying US presidency for his son]

    And Re #31: is that why US universities dominate not only TOP TEN but also TOP 200 list of the best in the world?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    @ 29 MidwesternSue. Students frm Ivy league univ prosper in professions that need more networking (politics, law, management etc) than raw talent (basic research, technology development etc).
    Previously US could attract talents frm all around world. Lately it has also eroded significantly.
    Check & read the comments too- http://jaychatterjee.blogspot.com/2010/12/great-dilema-of-life-sciences.html

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Great comment and very true..New numbers are tepid..

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Do the numbers reflect an actual gain in the number of people employed--or an increase in the number of people without jobs who have given up looking for work or run out of elegibility for benefits and thus are no longer officially counted as unemployed for statistical purposes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    As Mitt Romney pointed out Americans who couldn't get a job for many months finally ceased filing for unemployment benefits.

    Therefore Obama Administration does not count them in.

    If it did - the real US unemployment figure would be well over 11%.

    Question: what's a difference between Hollande and Obama?

    And: do we want to follow Greece, Portugal, Spain on the road to bankruptcy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    @ 29. MidwesternSue. Since Reagan era, US higher education manufacture mostly technicians, not original thinkers. Any mediocre student will do great in such system simply by carrying out orders and following protocols. That's one of the reasons why US is losing its technological edge even to 3rd world countries so fast.
    Check d excellent article- http://cs-test.ias.ac.in/cs/Volumes/102/11/1500.pdf

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Romney proved that he is a consummate liar; he was able to talk out of both sides of his mouth with barely a twitch. Personally would have liked more action from Obama -- calling him out more -- -- but if you get in the mud with a pig you both get filthy and only one is happy about it --

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    25:Jay:Excuse me but after having taught at the university level, although not in the ivy league, let me point out that people who can't do the work fail their classes no matter how much money they have. When you grade you don't look at finances you look at work done. If Romney has a degree let me assure you it was earned, as was Obama's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Any President would have done the same about UBL.Does anyone believe GW Bush would have hesitated?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    @23 which Bain, the consulting arm that referred clients to the hard-money lending arm, or the hard-money lending arm that Romney was put in charge of ? Do you mean like the Guinness scandal ? http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/01/15/bain-fortune-1987/

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Bain capital was contracted for what they promised, and achieved something completely different. It's like electing GWB; you think you're voting Republican, but when they get office they tell you, "Surprise! We're neocons now! But we're here to do what Republicans do; break all our own rules and promises! And make you like it!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    @ 19. MidwesternSue.
    10:Jay:You don't purchase degrees. You earn them....
    Really? I didn't know that after staying in higher education & research for so long! Check ur facts, Dear. "75-82% of students in ivy league Univs in US are from rich & powerful families, not only from US but also from around the world & has nothing to do with talent"- 2007 Princeton Univ survey.
    Remember GW Bush?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    what surprises me and depresses me a bit that more than 66% Ameriacns thought Romney stole the show in the first debate and they didn't seem to mind that he did this on back of 'lies and damn lies'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    eh, it's not a game changer, but it's supporting evidence.

    Do you know what would really surprise me? For one Bain client to step forward and sincerely testify that they don't regret hiring Bain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I tend to view this more a good news for US than to Obama - I think the new job figures and debate this week will only have limited impact to election outcome, and Obama is still favoured to win. Anyway, I still think we will never see pre-crash GDP growths and unemployment rates - part of the bigger game that economic growth is slowing. If you really want see growth, go to Africa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The debate made clear that Mitt does not know even his own plan, what he stands for (if anything at all, except money & power), what are the implication of his plan. There are so many examples all over. That $2 tn extra defense spending, $ 5 tn extra on tax cut & related programs, $760bn (saved by Obama by closing Bush era loopholes in medicare) is not a medicare cut.
    Rote memorization at work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Well frankly this is good news. The fact is that Obama is a better news just not for America but also for the world, for those who believe that answers to today's complex challenges lie in sophisticated reasoning and not shibboleths.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    10:Jay:You don't purchase degrees. You earn them, no matter how much money you have.

    11:johnakim:Since after November the Republicans will not be trying to make Obama a one term president, you will soon find that is not the reason why they oppose his policies. The 2 parties have different, contradictory ideas about what is best for the country. They are both doing what they think best for America

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The "truly exceptional moment" that determined the outcome of the 2012 vote happened when Osama Bin Laden finally met his Maker.

    Everything else is just icing on the cake. And now that the Big Bird Fan Club (meaning PBS Culture Club) has chimed in, that cake is looking pretty delicious indeed.

    Go on, President Obama, enjoy the remaining weeks of this race as you surge further & further ahead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Whether it's good news for the candidates or not, it's good news for the American people. But most of us have been educated about the BLS unemployment numbers over the last four years & will wait for more details.

    Meanwhile, unemployment globally -- specially among the young -- is cause for alarm. We ARE all in this together (& not many of us are pulling in $2Million/month in capital gains).


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