More good economic news and what it means for November

More good news on the employment front. February saw an addition of 227,000 new jobs while the reports for December and January were revised up to 223,000 from 203,000, and 284,000 from 243,000, respectively.

Some key takeaways:

* January (revised) was the best month for job growth the economy has seen since April of 2010 (291,000), and the second best month since the recession began overall. Last month was the fourth best.

* The 734,000 new jobs added in the past three months is the best three-month span since the recession began, far ahead of March, April, and May of 2010 (562,000).

* If the past three month average holds (it probably won’t), the economy is on pace to add 2.9 million new jobs this year, or about 2.4 million jobs between January and the fall elections. That’d be better than either 2010 (1.16 million) or 2011 (2.13 million), and nearly better than 2010 and 2011 combined.

* The last three months have seen more new jobs than the seven months between May and November of last year, combined (689,000), which were especially bad.

* February, March, and April of 2011 saw growth of 646,000 jobs before plummeting to just 158,000 new jobs over the following three months. Things can turn around quickly in either direction.

* Unemployment remains at 8.3%. The unemployment rate can be tricky to understand. The rate can go up if a lot of people who had given up looking for work suddenly started looking again, because of the improving prospects, which means that’s a good thing. It can also go down if people stop looking for jobs because they can’t find any, which is bad. That’s in addition to the rate increasing because of job loss, which is bad, and decreasing because of job growth, which is good.

* It’s possible, and maybe even likely, that the unemployment rate will go up in March precisely because more people are looking for work because of the improving economy.

* From the above link: “The average work week was unchanged at 34.5 hours. That’s close to the pre-recession total and suggests that companies will have to hire more workers as business improves, rather than adding more hours.

* An unemployment rate of 8.3% is a three year low; since February of 2009, when the rate was on a strong upward trend (7.3%, 7.8%, 8.3%, 8.7%, 8.9%, 9.4%).

* The magic number to fatally refute uninformed criticism of the Obama administration is 7.8%, the unemployment rate when President Obama was sworn into office.

* First-time jobless claims are up, but only slightly (+8000), to 362,000. BMO Capital says “the level of claims is still quite low” and they are “encouraged by what we’ve seen in the labor market in recent months.”

* Economists surveyed by CNN predicted 210,000 new jobs in February, a miss of 17,000 on the good side.

Now for some partisan analysis. Simple and to the point: if big GOP gains in 2010 were about the economy, and the current trend of job growth continues, President Obama should have little trouble winning reelection this fall. More than that, Democrats are already expected to close the gap in the House to between 5-15 seats. Sustained economic growth between now and November could easily push Democrats into the green and give them control of the House.

The Senate seems less affected by the economy and more sensitive to simple demographics. A few conservative Democrats are on their way out, surely to be replaced by Republicans in red states. An improving economy can’t erase voter partisanship so Democrats may lose the Senate anyway. Though it’s worth noting that Elisabeth Warren has just fallen behind Scott Brown in Massachusetts, and good economic news could put her right back into the lead. That seat is crucial to Democrats keeping the Senate in November.

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