Could the Unemployment Numbers Affect the Election?

While jobs saw a total net gain, the October unemployment rate went up ever so slightly.

With just four days until the election, the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate stayed relatively unchanged in October. Could job numbers, showing consistent but modest growth, have an effect at the polls?

Here’s a breakdown of October unemployment:

The numbers: While the unemployment rate ticked up slightly — from 7.8 to 7.9 percent — the jobs number beat estimates, showing a jump of 171,000 new positions in October. On top of this, numbers from August and September were revised upward. Every industry except for the federal government showed improvement. The standard U-3 unemployment rate, which doesn’t include marginally attached members of the labor force, went up. But the U-6 unemployment rate, considered the “real” unemployment rate by some as it does include those workers, went down slightly, from 14.7 to 14.6 percent.

The reaction: For the most part, analysts were positive about the numbers, though tentative. “Generally, the report shows that things are better than we’d expected and certainly better than we’d thought a few months ago,” Paul Dales of Capital Economics told The New York Times. “But we’re still not making enough progress to bring that unemployment rate down significantly and rapidly.” Analysts also note that the fiscal cliff could being playing a factor in limiting economic growth. The National Association of Manufacturers recently released a report to this effect and many associations are asking for action.

The impact: Next week’s election is still looking close, but the numbers could be a win for President Obama, who faced skepticism over last month’s numbers, which sent unemployment below 8 percent for only the second time in his presidency. But this month looks good only in the context of recent years. The Christian Science Monitor notes that the 7.9 percent rate is the highest for any election-year October since 1940, when the country was still recovering from the Great Depression. While Obama touted economic progress, Romney jumped on the unemployment rate, calling it a “sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill.”

How are slow-moving employment trends affecting your association? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

(Photo by seewhatmitchsee / 123RF)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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