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UPDATE: The numbers were surprisingly good and now everyone is optimistic. Well, probably not Mitt Romney. He can’t say it, of course, but many seem to agree the Romney campaign is likely getting nervous because if the economy continues to pick up steam the Republican front-runner will have to change his main rationale for why he would make the best president. After all, his argument that he will be the country’s CEO who can turn an ailing economy around won’t quite work if positive numbers become the norm over the next few months.
If the trend in hiring continues it means that the unemployment rate will drop below 7.8 percent within a few months, which is where it was when President Obama took office. “At that point, it will be tough for Mitt Romney to stand up and say the president’s policies have made the recession worse,” writes John Cassidy in The New Yorker. “And it will be impossible for Republicans to deny that things are getting better.”
On Friday, the Romney campaign quickly expanded its message, saying that the former governor’s campaign wasn’t just about jobs. “If Romney wins the nomination, his strategists argued, the fall campaign against President Obama will be shaped by what they described as an overarching sense of ‘prolonged misery’ among voters who are just as concerned about the housing crisis as with unemployment and believe the nation is on the wrong track,” reports the Washington Post.
Romney also insisted Friday that credit shouldn’t go to Obama, saying that he’s slowed down the inevitable recovery, reports Bloomberg. The economy “has taken a lot longer than it should have to come back, in part because of the policies of this administration,” Romney said. “For that, the president deserves the blame that he'll receive in this campaign.”
The former Massachusetts governor “faces the danger of looking oddly out of step” if he continues accusing Obama of making the recession worse, writes the New York Times. At the same time though, he might not have much of a choice, particularly considering trends could change before Election Day and Obama is still generally liked. “It’s all Romney has,” contends Jonathan Chait in New York.
Even if the numbers get better though that doesn’t mean people feel any better, notes the Associated Press. And that’s going to be key for Republicans. Yet Romney doesn’t just have the jobs report to worry about. The Dow Jones industrial average surged 1.23 percent Friday, reaching its highest level since May 2008, meaning before the collapse of Lehman Brothers. “The Dow's surge is a sign of the extent to which investors have put aside the global fears that gripped them last summer,” writes the Wall Street Journal.
That fact could be particularly significant considering a new study by Atlanta’s Socioeconomics Institute that says voters don’t really care about jobs numbers but rather their overall mood about the economy and that is most closely reflected by the Dow, reports the Washington Post.
POST Friday, 10:09 a.m.: Here's a surprise for those who thought the Trump endorsement (for Romney, that is) was the best news Obama's re-election campaign would get all week: job growth for January has brought the unemployment rate down to its lowest in nearly three years.
According to new data released Friday by the Labor Department, the unemployment rate fell from 8.5 to 8.3 percent after job growth for last month outpaced expectations. Payrolls increased by 243,000, substantially more than the roughly 150,000 jobs and steady unemployment rate estimated by Wall Street.
The Associated Press spots some more good news: the increase in jobs for January is spread across many different sectors, with manufacturing and construction, two struggling industries, adding 50,000 and 21,000 jobs, respectively. Meanwhile, professional and business services (encompassing many of the higher paying jobs out there), added 70,000 jobs; retail gained 11,000, and leisure and hospitality added 44,000 jobs.
The report also revises figures from the past two years, finding that job growth was better than previously thought: 1.82 million jobs were added in 2011.
That sounds great, but the number of unemployed in the U.S. is still staggeringly high by comparison. According to Reuters, 19.3 million Americans are still either unemployed or out of work.