Friday, September 02, 2011

Zip? Zilch? Nada?

We were expecting today's report on unemployment during the month of August to be sluggish. It doesn't take an economist to know that America is still deep in the grip of an economic crisis and that people all across the country still need jobs.

But we were surprised when we saw that there was no change in employment numbers in August.

None. None at all.

And, according to FoxNews, that's the first time that's happened in any month since February, 1945.

We wonder what the political fallout will be.

Ironically, we actually think this is the perfect news for President Obama as he awaits to unveil his new jobs plan to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday -- oops, strike that -- next Thursday. A report of no net job change is the best evidence the President could use to base his case that federal action is needed to kick-start job creation and to convince employers to add workers to their payrolls.

Well... almost perfect, that is. Because, at the same time that news of stagnant unemployment helps the President to make his case for a jobs plan, it also highlights the obvious fact that he has been in charge of the economy during these bleak times. In fact, things actually got worse while he was President. (Unemployment was at only 7.8 percent when Obama took office -- it's now 9.1 percent.) No matter how much the President wants to blame prior inhabitants of the Oval Office, or Congress, or greedy corporate executives for the economy, he is still the one and only President here and now. That gives the President a huge credibility problem heading into his speech next week. And, while the fact that there was no increase in unemployment is a good thing, the lack of an increase in jobs means that 14 million Americans are still standing in the unemployment line - truly depressing news for job seekers all over.

The political question is: to what extent can the President's Republican opponents convert this into an opportunity to expose the President's poor performance and credibility gap on job growth? (After all, unemployment is hardly a recent phenomenon, but President Obama is just now announcing a jobs plan, almost three full years into his presidency...) To succeed, Republicans need to make a convincing case why the President's purported action on jobs is too expensive and too late -- and, if the President really knew how to create jobs, wouldn't he have tried to do it already? Indeed, they need to do an even better job at this than they did at exposing the President's lack of credibility in wanting to cut the national debt after increasing it by several trillion dollars over the first portion of his term. Republicans also need to come up with a plan of their own for improving the economy. Even if Republicans disagree with what the President says next Thursday, they need to match his specific proposals with specific actions of their own, whatever those might be.

Because, at the end of the day, it all boils down to simple facts: Americans want -- and need -- their jobs back. They're tired of business-as-usual in Washington, D.C. They're tired of a stagnant economy.

Or, to paraphrase the President, Americans want change they can really believe in.


  1. Wonder if the jobs number had any political adjustment to show it not getting worse. What will be interesting is a month from now to see if they make any substantial adjustment to the August number. Should be very interesting, as there are often "corrections" after the fact.

  2. If there are "often corrections" after the fact, why would there be "political adjustments"? Jesus. It would make sense for the president to allow a dramatically bad number so he could get momentum for his program, otherwise there's NO reason to change what we're doing now.


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