4963930You can't do much about the timing. On the same day that Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele took a swipe at the Obama administration's record on jobs creation, the Labor Department announced that the nation's unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 10% with payrolls falling by just 11,000.
Perhaps of more significance was the downward revision of job losses in September and October. The government obviously employs four-eyed gerbils since they never manage to get the numbers straight the first time. Nonetheless, it turns out that 159,000 fewer jobs evaporated in September and October than previously thought.
While the latest report - and accompanying revision - is hardly reason to celebrate the return of Fat City, - even President Obama noted that ""good trends don't pay the rent"- economists said they liked the direction of that trend. One of them, Stephen Stanley of RBS, even described it to the Wall Street Journal as "one of those game-changer reports that should fundamentally alter the perception regarding the economy."
Economists aren't immune to hyperbole but even by more sober measure, the economic outlook is much improved from last January, when monthly unemployment hovered around 700,000 and the stock market was in a free fall. All of which presents the Republicans with a dilemma. If the White House mishandles the economy, the GOP obviously stands to gain at election time. Still, they have to be careful. Steele and his cohort can't whoop it up like Rush Limbaugh say out loud that they hope this president fails. They obviously would like nothing better but that's something they keep to themselves (for the most part.)
But this latest jobs number really screws things up for the GOP. If it's a harbinger and the economy begins to generate big employment gains, what then? The Republicans made clear this winter that the Democrats own the giant stimulus passed by Congress. Obama and Co. will be only too glad to claim credit if the economy returns to posting hundreds of thousands of new jobs each month.
Maybe that helps explain why Steele's sounding so shrill of late. On Thursday, he went on Fox to ridicule the White House jobs summit. He followed up today with a statement describing the event as "a distraction" meant to disguise "the fact that President Obama has managed to create more bureaucracy in Washington than jobs for American families." OK, no party chairman aren't immune to hyperbole, either.
Speaking of shtick, remember this one? By now, though, the "where are the jobs" mantra is showing its age. When I asked around at the RNC, I was told that the new idea will be to play up the different approaches the parties apply to the question of jobs creation. In other words, it will be about the road not chosen (since the Republicans weren't the ones in power.)
"When you look at 2012, the most important thing will be the way you get (job growth.)," a source said. "There's a stark contrast between how the Democrats want to get there and how we would like to get there and what we would have done - which is through incentives and tax cuts."
Good luck with that idea if unemployment keeps dropping.