August Jobs–Meh At Best

So in our monthly dose of angst from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the August jobs report is kind of the opposite of July’s, which showed better-than-expected job growth but an actual uptick in the unemployment rate. This time around, the net jobs increase number, at 96,000, fell short of the 120-130k expectations, but the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3% to 8.1%. There were also some modest but significant downward revisions of the job gain numbers for June and July.

So we are continuing to get the picture of an economy that is slowly struggling to recover but not making up much if any ground. It’s unclear if the situation is enough to merit the action by the Federal Reserve Board that Ben Bernanke has been hinting at.

It will be widely observed today that Barack Obama (allegedly) had access to these numbers yesterday afternoon, and that they may have marginally affected the tone of his acceptance address, adding emphasis to the message that he’s struggling with the American people through hard times, not proclaiming success. It is very unlikely this jobs report–or, barring the kind of unlikely sharp trend that makes publication of reports beside the point, the two more we’ll see before Election Day–will have some tangible effect on undecided voters. But we’ll hear a lot about it anyway, particular from Republicans seeking an angle from which to deny the Democratic Convention had any positive impact on the president’s odds of victory.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.