As the summer sun bears down, there appears to be only one thing guaranteed to stay cold.
The June jobs created numbers was a bleak 80,000, bringing the average for April, May and June to 75,000. Combined, there were about 140,000-150,000 fewer new jobs than were needed just to meet population growth. The last three-month period in which job creation was this dismal was August-October 2010.
The result is an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent that doesn’t take into account those who are underemployed and those who have given up looking for work. Despite being “officially” three years out from what has come to be known as the Great Recession, the jobless percentages are staying stubbornly at recession levels.
The markets reacted to the bad new Friday by dropping. The only good news is that the report sent oil prices down as well, with prices dropping $2.77 a barrel to $84.45. Of course, lower prices at the pump are of little solace if you don’t have a job so you can pay for the gas.
The presidential candidates were out in full force Friday spinning the numbers to their respective advantage, if an advantage could be found.
President Obama, touring Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states that potentially will have a big say in who is occupying the White House this January, pointed to 4.4 million private sector jobs that have been created in just over two years. But Republican challenger Mitt Romney charged that June was another example of failed policies by the Obama administration and challenged Obama to “stand up and take responsibility” for what has happened on his watch.
With investors already fretting over the never-ending drama of the Eurozone and reports that China’s economy is losing a lot of steam, the U.S. jobs news wasn’t what they needed to gain any degree of confidence. And without confidence, businesses tend to stand pat rather than forge ahead toward growth.
That the economy will play a big role in the November presidential election is a given. The question is only how big the role will be. Obama very likely will be the first president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to run for re-election with unemployment at 8 percent or higher, since job creation rates would have to more than triple over each of the next four months to get below that mark. The closest brush a president since FDR has had with the 8 percent figure was in 1976 when President Ford, saddled with a 7.8 percent unemployment rate, lost the White House to President Carter.
Despite hot-button issues such as immigration, same-sex marriage and health care reform, Americans tend to be most concerned about jobs and job security when they go to the polls. And from the looks of things, they’re likely to be pretty concerned when they get there.