McFeatters: Barack Obama gets a post-debate boost as unemployment falls below 8 percent
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Just when President Barack Obama was in need of a post-debate boost, the U.S. economy came through for him. The September unemployment rate, considered the most politically significant economic statistic between now and the election, fell to 7.8 percent -- where it was when he took office in January 2009.
That effectively punctured a key and effective Republican talking point -- that in the entire 43 months of Obama's term the jobless rate had been 8 percent or higher. Indeed, the economy has added jobs for 24 straight months.
The Labor Department said the economy added 114,000 jobs in September, good but not enough to keep up with the potential growth in the workforce. Still, these figures are subject to revision and the most recent revisions are also a break for Obama.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics upped the July figure of 141,000 new jobs created to an impressive gain of 181,000 and job gains in August were revised upward from 96,000 to 142,000. And for the 12 months from March of last year to this one, BLS said 386,000 more jobs were likely created than originally reported.
As the Associated Press noted, there are now officially more jobs in the U.S. than when Obama took office.
The gains were spread across most sectors of the economy, even government, which had been steadily shedding jobs and acting as a drag on employment. In the two years ending last May, federal, state and local government employment fell by more than 1 million jobs. But governments are hiring again, adding 10,000 jobs in September and, according to revised figures, 45,000 jobs in August.
The total number of unemployed fell 456.000 to 12.1 million. Average pay and the average work week were also up slightly. Serious pessimists and the Romney camp can find some gloomy spots in the report: labor force participation is low and there are too many workers who have quit looking altogether or who can only find part-time work.
However, the trajectory clearly indicates a recovery and not only did over 114,000 people find jobs last month this report may help Obama keep his next month.
The next jobs report is due out Friday, Nov. 2, four days before the election, but by then the die will have been cast and few minds are likely to be changed by new government statistics.
Dale McFeatters is a senior writer for the Scripps Howard News Service.