Posted Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, at 8:39 AM
Pretty bad new jobs report today says the economy added 96,000 new jobs in August and also featured downward revisions to the June and July payroll numbers. In particular, July's solid if non-spectacular 163,000 is down to a middling 141,000 and June's bad 64,000 is down to a terrible 45,000.
I always like to emphasize the revisions. Collecting this data is pretty hard, so the revisions are pretty large. The ultimate August number could end up quite different from this one. All the data this month is pointing in the same direction—not good.
Now on a political level I think Obama's fortunes might be bolstered by the fact that the household survey showed a smallish decline in the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is I think a better-known indicator to the average person, and a decline is better than a non-decline. The reality, however, is that this was basically driven by people dropping out of the labor force. Not all of that is a bad thing per se—it's fine for people to retire early or whatever—but it's hard to see it as "good news" for the economy on any level. It strikes me as very odd that Obama, who knew this report was coming, made no reference to any plans to fight unemployment in his speech.
Some folks are saying this increases the odds of additional Federal Reserve easing at the next meeting. I have my doubts. Ben Bernanke seems stuck in a confused intellectual paradigm and I sort of doubt they'll want to announce QE3 in the middle of a presidential campaign.