As Mark Twain once observed, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” The nattering nabobs of negativity you read and hear in your local news about the American economy would have you believe that the American economy has run out of steam. The vast majority of news reporters are clueless about “the dismal science”of economics. I really miss Irving R. Levine.
Steve Benen today has the monthly jobs report for April. Where are the jobs? They’re right here:
There were some discouraging job numbers in December and January, sparking some widespread concerns about whether the modest recovery in the job market was faltering. Everyone wanted to know whether conditions would slide further or bounce back after a difficult winter.
We now have our answer. The new report from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in April, well ahead of expectations, and one of the highest totals of any month in several years. The overall unemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 6.3% — its lowest point since September 2008, nearly six years ago.
For the third consecutive month, public-sector layoffs did not drag down the overall employment figures. Though jobs reports over the last few years have shown monthly government job losses, in April, the private sector added 273,000 while the public sector added 15,000. The latter may not sound like much, but when you get used to that total being negative, it’s a breath of fresh air.
These are, of course, preliminary numbers that will be revised, but at this point, April appears to be one of the best months for the U.S. job market since before the Great Recession began.
Better yet, the job totals for both February and March were both revised up, pointing to an additional 36,000 jobs that had been previously unreported.
All told, over the last 12 months, the U.S. economy has added over 2.36 million jobs overall and 2.37 million in the private sector. What’s more, April was the 50th consecutive month in which we’ve seen private-sector job growth.
Here’s another chart showing monthly job losses/gains in just the private sector since the start of the Great Recession.
The Fix column of the Washington Post, the source of Beltway “conventional wisdom,” prognosticates the importance of the jobs numbers to the November election. First Aaron Blake, Unemployment picture even better for Democrats in key Senate states:
[T]he unemployment picture in the states holding key Senate races is actually quite a bit better for Democrats than the national picture.
According to the most recent state figures available, from March, the unemployment rate in 11 of the top 13 states Democrats are defending was below the national average, and the rate was actually at or below 5 percent in six of those 11 states.
Those 11 states include arguably the three most pivotal states when it comes to the Senate majority: Alaska, North Carolina and Louisiana.
Meanwhile, in the two states Republicans are defending — Georgia and Kentucky — the unemployment rate was above the national average.
Alaska and North Carolina, for what it’s worth, weren’t far off the national numbers.
Chris Cillizza adds How the April jobs report could solve Democrats’ enthusiasm problem:
“The most important determinants of macro midterm outcomes are the economy and presidential popularity and one of the most important drivers of presidential popularity is the economy,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. “So an improving economy is a twofer. If the economy improves the whole electoral environment for Democrats improves.”
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[E]vidence of how an improving economy — or at least the perception of an improving economy — could help solve Democrats’ biggest problem heading into the November midterm: a decided passion gap with the Republican base when it comes to the likelihood to vote. Among self-identified Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters, three quarters of those who rate the economy positively say they are “absolutely certain to vote” this fall, as compared to just 58 percent of those who rate the economy negatively. It holds then that the more people in this group who believe the economy is doing well, the more likely they are to turn out and vote for Democrats.
“It won’t be an improving economy, it will be the perception of an improving economy,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster. “That would change the president’s job performance, help incumbents, and most important, make it easier for Democrats to increase turnout of young people and unmarried women who feel hardest hit and often forgotten.”
Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster who, along with Republican pollster Bill McInturff, conducts the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, pointed to more evidence in his data of how the April jobs numbers could change the electoral dynamic. “Our recent NBC/WSJ poll showed that (A) the plurality of the public STILL understand that, even after 6 years in office, President Obama inherited the economic mess, and (B) that he got significant credit for the improvements in a tough economic period,” Yang wrote in an e-mail to the Fix on Friday morning. “What he was missing was tangible, realistic numbers to back that up, and the current unemployment numbers can only help the President and by extension Democrats in 2014. The extent of that help, of course, is still to be determined.”
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Matt McDonald, an economic consultant who has worked on a number of Republican presidential campaigns, offered a more nuanced take on the latest economic report. “Maybe the Obama economy is actually John Edwards’ revenge of two Americas — the America that can get a job and works, and the America that can’t,” McDonald said. “Like politics lately getting scrambled by populism, I think our economy is defying easy characterizations right now.”
Agreed. And, one month of good jobs numbers — even with some underlying issues in the report that suggest everything isn’t hunky dory — doesn’t mean the fundamentals of this election (or of second-term midterm elections generally) are altered. But for a Democratic party badly in need of something/anything that might allow them to close the enthusiasm gap with Republicans between now and November, the April jobs report is welcome — and rare — good news.
Long-term unemployment and workforce participation continue to be long-term problems that the Tea-Publican Congress refuses to address. Many of the new jobs being created are low-wage jobs, a situation which could be remedied by Congress enacting an increase in the minimum wage, which is steadfastly opposed by Tea-Publicans. Magical thinking, i.e., faith based supply-side “trickle down” economics, clearly has failed.
I take issue with Chris Cillizza perpetuating this “enthusiasm gap” nonsense. I have posted about the political science behind the “midterm drop-off” that occurs in almost every midterm election among Democratic voter constituencies. The Democratic ‘mid-term falloff’ problem, The Rising American Electorate and Midterm Drop-off and The ‘Rising American Electorate’ needs to grow up and turn out to vote consistently in every election. This phenomenon is not easily so explained by the lazy media villager shorthand of “enthusiasm gap.”