Good News, Bad News; Economic Figures Show Race Is Finely Poised

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“It’s the economy, stupid”

So said Bill Clinton in his 1992 presidential campaign and, you know what, Bill was right.

If there is one thing that matters in US politics, its the economy. Now more so than ever; with the US recovery remaining limp. Indeed, over 80% of the US electorate believe it is the key issue of the presidential campaign.

The release of employment figures yesterday, the last set of economic statistics before the election, was therefore a important milestone. The data, however, paints a confusing picture.

The figures indicated that the US economy had created an extra 171,000 jobs in October; coupled with an extra 34,000 created in September and another 50,000 in August. It now means that Obama has definitely presided over a net gain of jobs during his time in office – no easy achievement in the midst of a recession. The data all looks good for Obama then.

Or does it? At the same time, the unemployment rate has risen from 7.8% to 7.9% – still below the 8% marker that Obama achieved in September, but a growth indeed. Nonetheless, even these figures are not as bad as when first considered.

People who count as “unemployed” are those actively seeking a job; this may mean that people who had stopped looking for jobs have re-entered the market with a belief that they would be more successful in such a venture. It may also just reflect America’s population has grown.

“We’ve made real progress, but we’ve got more work to do.”

President Obama

Yet, other economic monitors such as the housing market, automobile industry and consumer spending all indicate a stronger and quicker recovery is imminent. Obama can argue therefore that his economic plans are working; jobs are being created and there is a growing confidence in the economy; the time of the “jobless recovery” is over.

Romney can also position himself well though; the rise still means that the unemployment rate is greater now than when Obama took office. In fact, Obama will now go into election day with the highest rate of unemployment of any incumbent president since Roosevelt. Such figures and economic peril were the killers for both Jimmy Carter’s, in 1981, and George Bush’s, in 1992, attempts to gain a second term.

Moreover, there are nearly a million who remain out of work, want a job but are no longer actively looking as they have no confidence in the situation.

The GOP candidate has stated this case well, claiming that Obama target was 5.2% – “9 million short of what he promised”. If he can make this case well, he may convince some of the US public that he is the man to run the economy.

“This is why I am running for president. I know how to change the course the nation is on, how to get us to a balanced budget and how to build jobs and rising take-home pay.

Mitt Romney
GOP Candidate

Figures are somewhat deceptive though; generally, people will vote on their personal circumstances or the situation of those around them rather than figures. Indeed, the people who remaining unemployed – and are looking for jobs – are those likely to turn to Romney; those feeling safe with their employment status are unlikely to want a change in the status-quo.

So a game-changer? Probably not; just another set of circumstances – like the polls, and debates – that show this election is finely balanced.

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