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, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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US Presidential Election 2012


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  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    334:McJakome:I'm surprised the govt. would allow graduates from a program not accredited by a public agency to call it a college degree. And I wouldn't think a med school would let someone w/out proper training in. I don't see how biology can be anti-Biblical and don't understand people who don't think that if 2 truths seem to contradict each other, we must be misunderstanding at least 1 of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    306:lockstockandbarrel:Here in South Bend IN there are public housing buildings scattered throughout all the neighborhoods, rich and poor. There are also ethnic neighborhoods, some of them pretty poor, and a couple housing projects for poor people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    316. MidwesternSue I was, as Chryses said, overly general. I would not trust a doctor or dentist who graduated from a school where Biology was Biblical and anti-science, even if accredited. The little Christian colleges have their own accreditation agency, they and the diploma mills are bogus. I have degrees from 2nd tier [not Ivy League] schools, so am a bit of a snob.
    321. MS agreed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    Not a game-changer, but the opposite most certainly would've been. Obama is luckier than anyone should be. While someone could explain how it's not impossible that he had the numbers massaged for the occasion, without proof it sounds like wild paranoia and/or sour grapes. If true, it probably wouldn't come out for decades (unless Wikileaks gets an October surprise.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    Whatever is a "circular economy"?

    THINK about it, and let me know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    sending a message out to yank friends on fb ask if they support gop or tea party. if they do , i'm un-friending trash

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    290:bugletmelodie(cont):pay people a living wage. As it is the govt handouts to the poor allow employees to survive when they would not on their minimum wage salaries. Paying a living wage to every employed American would also increase employment because the currently destitute employed would buy more, which would more than offset the decrease in employment by employers who couldn't afford to hire

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    319 Chryses

    Be nice :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    290:bugletmelodie:Johnson's war on poverty had some unintended consequences, such as destroying poor communities. That's why proposals on what to do to help the poor should come from the poor who can best see what will help them and what hurt. But I certainly work and qualify for help, and so do many others. If you want workers to stop needing govt handouts to live you must require businesses to

  • Comment number 327.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    264:mabelwhite:Those aren't voter suppression laws. They're designed to minimize the income earned by those who go from polling place to polling place pretending to be a nonexistent person in order to rig the voting. Remember that IL, SD, and Alaska have more voters than residents on their rolls. Many other places are getting close. Those who don't exist shouldn't be allowed to cast votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    252:lock stock and barrel:When the pres's party is in power, as it was for 2 years, and he can't get his legislation through, there is something wrong with his leadership abilities.

    264:mabelwhite:The GOP has been gunning for PBS since Bob Dole's wife stopped heading it. They wanted it gone before that, but Sen. Dole (R-KS) (and 96 pres. nominee) disagreed. Now that she's not there . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    MidwesternSue (321),

    "... If Romney turns out poorly we can put him out of office too."

    Yep! Wasn't it Romney who said he liked to be able to fire people? What's sauce for the cook is sauce for the gander!

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    295 McJakome
    “Oversimplification is killing the US political process.”

    First off, thanks for the list. It’s nice to see someone knowledgeable enough to even create it. I agree with your oversimplification comment, it happens on both sides. Oversimplification might be the wrong word for it though, but I’m struggling a bit for a better one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    238:MagicKirin:FDR closing the banks stopped the panic run of money from them and allowed them to survive. Many other things he did kept the depression from being even worse than it was.

    241:Billythefirst:The ? is why they're down, which is what matters. And they'll get stagnant for a while when we really come out of this and people rejoin the job market. The definition needs to be fixed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    James Buchanan (D)
    James Polk (D)
    Franklin Pierce (D)
    Grover Cleveland (D)

    Given that Buchanan seems to have been ready to allow the South to secede from the union unimpeded, might I suggest that there are bad presidents in the history of each party.

    215:If Romney turns out poorly we can put him out of office too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    201:C:Snowe voted for the Senate bill in committee. When it became obvious the Dems weren't interested in something everyone could agree on because they could shove anything through Congress they wanted without them, the Reps refused to agree to the proposals. And the Senate should modify House passed bills & send them to committee to have a final agreement hashed out & end the current impasse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    rodidog (317),

    "293 Curt

    I was responding on where the money comes from. You mentioned China and the circular economy. A circular economy is about recycling resources and has little to do with your point ..."

    I trust you are not surprised?

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    186:Tom_in_Exeter:Untrue. If the unemployment rate is falling because more people have stopped looking for work because they've given up finding any, then the real unemployment hasn't changed. It's the real unemployment and not the rates that matters to the people who need work.

    194:AndreaNY:Often 2 reps on opposite sides of an issue both say present to avoid upsetting constituents who disagree

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    293 Curt

    I was responding on where the money comes from. You mentioned China and the circular economy. A circular economy is about recycling resources and has little to do with your point. So you might check your terminology before telling others to think. Second, China buys US bonds because it needs a safe place to park large sums of money, they’re not the only game in town.


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