The PJ Tatler

Dems Glum About Economy Despite Upbeat Jobs Report

With the uproar over the Bergdahl swap, you may have missed Friday’s job report for May.

You didn’t miss much:

Jobs numbers released by The Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday morning were better than what economists were predicting, leading the markets to pick up steam in early trading.

Non-farm payrolls added 217,000 jobs in May, slightly above the 215,000 that economists were expecting. The unemployment rate, which is drawn from a different survey of households, remained unchanged at 6.3% and is 0.1% better than the 6.4% consensus.

The labor force participation rate also remained unchanged from the 62.8% rate reported for April, the lowest rate in decades. The BLS said Friday that the participation rate has shown no clear trend since this past October but is down by 0.6% over the year.

April’s employment numbers were revised down to 282,000 jobs added from 288,000. March payroll figures were not revised, remaining at 203,000 non-farm jobs added. Total employment gains those months were therefore 6,000 lower than the BLS — a division of the Department of Labor – previously reported. Job growth averaged 197,000 in the prior 12 months.

Ron Sanchez, executive vice president and chief investment officer at Fiduciary Trust (a Franklin Templeton company) said in a phone interview Friday that while not as robust as many economists would like to see, the results are positive because of the stability and consistency they show in the labor market.

That labor force participation rate is the lowest in 36 years and hasn’t budged in three months. Despite the net gain in jobs, it appears that the number of long-term unemployed and discouraged workers remains unchanged.

Democrats, who, let’s face it, need some cheering up these days, are taking no pleasure in the jobs report. That’s because about half the country still thinks we’re in a recession. Even though the economy continues to grow — glacially, and fitfully — huge swaths of the country are not seeing any noticeable improvement.

What does that mean for Democrat prospects in the midterms?

The Hill reports:

The problem for Obama and his party is that none of that appears to be making voters feel any better about the economy, or his handling of it.

Though job growth after the latest report has now eclipsed the jobs lost during the recession, the economic growth pales in comparison to the 1980s and 1990s.

“Obama came in and said he would make things better. He did make things better, but he didn’t make them anywhere near as they had been in the ‘80s and ‘90s and that’s still people’s reference,” said Robert J. Shapiro, former principal economic adviser to President Clinton. “There’s deep disappointment and anger in the electorate about what’s happened to their lives economically for the last decade.”

Democrats hope a stronger economic recovery could help improve Obama’s standing with the public and their chances of retaining the Senate this fall.

But Shapiro argues Democrats remain at a disadvantage, despite the recent jobs reports, since the public sees Obama and the Democrats as responsible for years of economic pain.

“There’s an advantage to the Republicans, no doubt about it,” Shapiro said of the economy. “The public sees the president and the president’s party as responsible for the economy.”

Overall, the economy lost 8.7 million between January 2008 through February 2010.

The May report means gains have now eclipsed 8.8 million, but that may not be enough to change the public’s mood.

Jim Manley, former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said it’ll be tough for Democrats to run on the economy, but just as hard for Republicans, too.

“For anyone up for reelection they’re in an heck of a better place than six months ago but they’re not in a spot yet where they can run on what the economy is doing because it is still at zero-net jobs growth,” Manley said.

Politicians talk about the economy in terms of jobs created or lost. It’s a fairly easy case for the GOP to make when you consider the kinds of jobs that are replacing the jobs lost during the recession.

James Pethokoukis has a helpful chart showing the damage:

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Are any of those high-paying jobs ever going to come back? Policies that encourage manufacturing instead of trying to kill jobs with silly carbon rules and nonsensical tax laws would help. Democrats would do well to downplay the economy and keep up their attacks on Republicans, inequality, and the GOP’s war on women.

It’s all they’ve got and it probably won’t be enough.