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.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    If Unemployment in America was measured as it is in Europe the true figure would be over 19%.

    "The disappeared" 342,000 from last month are what we would call Long term Unemployed

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    I'm no great Dem fan, nor I am a great fan of pseudo patriotism. I care what's good for the world, my host country US, how it's connected & how it's directly related to my own & my family's future.
    What I'm opposed to is- corporatization of education, monopolizing of public policy by idiots & liers like Bush-Mitt from privileged background & crony capitalism. None will serve any of MY objectives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    no more negative ads, Mr. President, please... If you think low of Mr. Romney, just say it on his face

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    "[unemployment] was 7.8% in September, with 114,000 new jobs created."
    It's amazing how partisan people get about unemployment up/down

    are GOP sad it's gone down and wanted it up
    does this mean some unemployed want to work & aren't lazy victims
    does this mean there is a green shoots of recovery or serious issues

    does anyone say anything without thinking on how to party spin first

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    "Some of the best presidents & leaders did not even have formal education"

    If memory serves Barack Hussein Obama has not graduated from a community college, but from Harvard's Law School.

    Is that why he doesn't not anything about economy?

    No 1 in the int. ranking of top universities is Caltech.

    MIT just behind it.

    Followed closely by the Wharton School of Economics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Rick Santelli "forecasted" this a long-time ago. The Chicago boys are amazing . THey are more efficient and predictable than the Goodfellas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    These measurements are not very accurate, and might well be revised back up in subsequent months. Plus, everyone knows now that this headline unemployment rate is phony, the real level of unemployment plus underemployment is considerably higher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    The change is like a dim light in the tunnel that took 3 yrs & let us hope for its continuation. It has no drastic impact to change the Election out come but it will be exploited to the maximum for Partisan Politics

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Productivity in science directly related to national economy. British suddenly did not gone intellectually bankrupt and US students did not do any miracle after WWII.
    Just watch Netflix documentary "The Flaw". US became superpower as wealth distribution was more equal, middle class flourished, income inequality was at its lowest- till 1980s. Now US has the WORST income inequality in its history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    You have a bias in reporting this election;. you have promoted Obama all along. Where is the story of the Obama video with the phoney southern accent pandering to blacks?
    If you continue your left wing bias at least change your name to the Liberal perspective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    These figures only make sense if 350,000 unemployed Americans have just fallen off a cliff.

    Why do the old Soviet agricultural production claims spring to mind?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Teng Siao-Ping liked to quote an ancient Chinese proverb:

    "Is doesn't matter whether a cat is white, grey or black.

    As long as he catches mice".

    Question: How many unemployed mice Mr. Obama has managed to to catch and make legiitimately employed?

    And if only 125 thousand over 4 years, should't we get a cat of another color?

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    38. readwriteandblue

    100,000 new Wal-Mart greeters or MacDonalds employees is not going to fix the USA economy


    True, but you have to start somewhere.

    “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

    ― Confucius, Confucius: The Analects

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Another fictitious total that does not take into account the number of people who simply do not qualify for unemployment any longer. Did they all suddenly find jobs? I seriously doubt it. Folks, wake up. The Kool-aid Obama is serving you is just making you look more like fools by the day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Watch the excellent PBS documentary "College Inc." & "declining by degrees" or read "The Price of Admission" by Daniel Golden for specific example. You will know how GOP & Reagan's tireless effort to "reduce Govt" & monopolizing higher education to privileged section of US society is taking its toll. Baby-boomers did not witness that.
    Honesty & hard work is no more an asset to succeed in US now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Many economists sceptical of data.Let's see.PLUS the real unemployment is well over 11% if using same calculation model as most of Europe(correctly) does

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Mittens' mendacity has an effect on the election!

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    More significant than Obama's alleged lackluster debate. This puts a dent in Romney's stump speech of "43 months of consecutive unemployment above 8%". This new 7.8% is below the 7.9% when the president took office in January 2009. What is even more significant is that progress was made despite Republican efforts to obstruct FIVE job creation bills. Republicans put party before country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    I know it's political football but honestly this good news for everybody.
    We need the real numbers though
    Employed to Workforce
    Skilled to Unskilled
    100,000 new Wal-Mart greeters or MacDonalds employees is not going to fix the USA economy

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Now US politics & higher positions r over crowded by Ivy leaguers. U will get clear trend if U check US presidents, Supreme Court chief justices etc in last few decades. Previously during golden era of US, such people came from all over US, frm any Univ. Some of the best presidents & leaders did not even have formal education.
    That change has severe consequence on public policy & national welfare.


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