Important Point on Jobs

With a strong jobs report, both sides in the presidential campaign are, predictably, reacting and spinning the results — some more happily than others. But there’s a deeper point to be drawn about today’s numbers that may be helpful to understanding the presidential campaign.Around six weeks and particularly after the conventions, both campaigns started noticing that public perceptions of the economy were on the upswing. But neither campaign had a clear sense of why that was happening. The economy itself seemed either stable (in a bad place) or even trending down. Was there something going on in the economy that the hard economic data wasn’t picking up? Or was the campaign itself somehow partisanizing perceptions of the economy? Or maybe did Obama and Clinton just get people really pumped up about the economy?

Here’s one way to visualize this.

But new evidence suggests it may have been the former possibility. We don’t just have a decent jobs report today. The BLS also revised the numbers for July and August pretty dramatically. August was revised up from 96,000 to 142,000 and July was revised up to 181,000. Those aren’t roaring recovery numbers but they paint a very different picture than the original numbers. This comes on the heels of a report a week ago that the BLS upward revised the jobs numbers from the first half of the year by 386,000 jobs.

Together, again, that paints a significantly different picture of where the economy has been for the last year. Politically, we’ve been operating on the assumption that the economy got into gear last winter and then slumped back into anemic jobs growth in the spring. But it seems like on the ground that may not actually have happened. So if we wonder why Obama’s numbers have resisted the anemic jobs reality, it seems like we may have had an incorrect picture of what that reality was.