Friday’s strong jobs report is just the latest of several recent events that may give a small boost to President Obama going into the last weekend before the election.
The Labor Department’s October employment report showed much stronger jobs growth than economists had forecasted—171,000 new jobs were added, way above the consensus 125,000.
And the statisticians revised August and September data upward, so 84,000 more jobs were created than previous reports had indicated.
Private sector growth continued strong—184,000 new jobs, making this the 32nd consecutive month of private sector job growth, as more than five million new private sector jobs were added during that time.
Industries that served the consumer did particularly well: leisure and hospitality added 28,000 new jobs, while retailers hired 36,000 more people.
The only shadow on this report was a slightly higher unemployment rate—7.9%, up from last month’s 7.8%, due mostly to an increase in labor force participation. It’s now one tick higher than it was when President Obama took office, but also below the magic 8% number.
The jobs report plays well into the president’s narrative that the economy is improving, along with these other data that came out recently:
- ADP said companies added 158,000 jobs in October, the biggest increase in eight months.
- Car sales in October were up 13% over October 2011.
- Home sales have been up for 15 straight months, and rose 11% in September from a year ago as supply fell to its lowest level in 6 ½ years.
- And in October the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index reached its highest level since February 2008, echoing results from the University of Michigan’s confidence index released earlier.
What this all means is that a decent consumer recovery is well under way, as housing finally recovers and debt-laden consumers have repaired their balance sheets enough to spend again.
That all comes despite anxieties over the looming “fiscal cliff,” when some $600 billion of expiring tax cuts and scheduled tax increases and spending reductions hang over the economy like a guillotine’s blade.
This news of a consumer-driven recovery might give the president a slight boost, along with the endorsement of Gen. Colin Powell a week ago and, especially, the partial “endorsement” of Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for his help in the aftermath of Sandy. (78% of Americans approved of the president’s handling of the disaster.)
There aren’t too many truly undecided voters left, but with margins so thin in so many critical swing states, every little bit helps, and five days before the election, the momentum may now be going the president’s way.
Also read: The Choice We Face