The April jobs numbers are bad. Yes, the White House and the Obama campaign would like you to know that it was the 26th straight month of job growth, but the net gain of 115,000 (non-farm) jobs, was well below expectations. Yes the unemployment rate declined from 8.2 to 8.1, but the know-alls say this reflects people leaving the workforce (which makes me wonder once again why we can’t have a measure that takes that into account).
Of course, for Team Romney, bad economic news is good political news. Can’t blame Team R for that or for tut-tutting that this tick of the clock reflects badly on the Team Obama’s claims that what they are doing for the economy is working.
But Romney went a little nutso in setting the standard for what would constitute good economic news. Speaking on Fox News this morning as the numbers came out, he said:
“We should be seeing numbers in the 500,000 jobs created-per-month. This is way, way, way off from what should happen in a normal recovery.”
Problem #1: There have been four months in the last 50 years (that’s 600 months) in which the economy added 500,000 or more jobs. Does Romney, who is running as the candidate who knows how the economy works, know this? Does he care?
Oh, and one of those four months of greater-than 500,000 jobs added was May of 2010, when guess-who was president.
MSNBC quotes Romney in Pittsburgh this afternoon, reacting to the news that the unemployment had declined from 8.2 to 8.1 percent:
“Normally, that would be cause for celebration, but anything near 8 percent or over 4 percent is not cause for celebration.”
Problem #2: According to this graphic maintained by the Wall Street Journal, the last time the monthly unemployment rate was under 4 percent was in 2000, the last year of the Clinton boom. If Romney’s standard is correct, there were zero months during the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency when the unemployment rate was cause for celebration. In fact, according to the same data, other than four months in 2000, the U.S. unemployment has been no cause for celebration since January of 1970, which according to my own estimates covers the last 42 years of booms and busts including all of the Reagan years.
I’m guessing that Romney actually does know better, but that he needs to set an impossible standard so that nothing that happens between now and November could possibly qualify as good news.
On the other, and sadder hand, in a political culture where factual accuracy and credibility mattered, someone in Romney’s shoes would be reluctant to make statements so disconnected from reality. Sigh.