Disappointing Jobs Report, Unsatisfying Obama Response

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The new jobs—or lack thereof—numbers are not encouraging. Unemployment did drop to 9.5 percent. But overall the economy shed 125,000 jobs—while adding a measly 83,000 private-sector jobs. Reminder: the economy needs about 150,000 new jobs a month to keep up with population growth and new entries into the jobs market. It needs a lot more than that to make up for the 8 million or so jobs lost in 2008 and 2009.

Obama administration officials can point to a small drop in the unemployment rate. But if you factor in the 652,000 folks who left the labor force in June—a particularly high number—the unemployment rate would be 9.9 percent. So how can the Obama crowd sell this report? They’re sticking to the default position: we’re making economic progress, but need a lot more.

Speaking after the June labor report was released, President Obama said:

[The report] showed the sixth straight month of job growth in the private sector.  All told, our economy has created nearly 600,000 private sector jobs this year.  That’s a stark turnaround from the first six months of last year, when we lost 3.7 million jobs at the height of the recession. Now, make no mistake:  We are headed in the right direction.  But as I was reminded on a trip to Racine, Wisconsin, earlier this week, we’re not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans.  We’re not headed there fast enough for me, either.  The recession dug us a hole of about 8 million jobs deep.  And we continue to fight headwinds from volatile global markets.  So we still have a great deal of work to do to repair the economy and get the American people back to work.

On the White House blog, Christina Romer, chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, noted,

These continued signs of healing are important, particularly given the recent volatility in world markets and the mixed behavior of other recent economic indicators.  However, much stronger job gains are needed to repair the damage caused by the financial crisis and put the millions of unemployed Americans back to work.

Democratic Party chief Tim Kaine issued a statement,

Today’s news offers hope for American workers that businesses and employers across the country continue to hire, but it also demonstrates the hard work we still have ahead to recreate the millions of jobs lost as a result of the recession.

All these statements are true, but hardly satisfying. How long can Obama and his crew keep saying the same thing: the recovery is weak, but we’re doing the best we can? As I noted elsewhere, because Obama messed up the politics of the first stimulus initiative, he doesn’t have many options these days to juice up the economy further. And there are only four months to the congressional election. If the GOP does gain House and Senate seats, Obama’s hands will be tied even more so—and he’ll have less to talk of in response to disappointing economic news.

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