President Barack Obama | AP file photo
Updated: November 8, 2012 12:08PM
No sooner had Barack Obama finished flubbing his first debate with Mitt Romney than I saw Republicans gleefully speculating that a bleak September jobs report would complete a one-week reversal of fortune in the presidential race and put their man ahead.
Looks like they’ll have to come up with a Plan B.
The jobs report released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was hardly cause for anyone — even Democrats — to break out into a chorus of “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
But the drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent certainly came as mildly good news for the country and a welcome boost to the president at the tail end of what had to have been a jarring week for his re-election campaign.
Setting aside for a moment what it means to live in such a bleak political climate that a significant portion of the population was looking forward to news of a bleak economic climate to justify its anger, let’s stick with the basics.
The economy is still in lousy shape.
You didn’t need to see any report from the federal government or hear from Mitt Romney to know that.
You can probably see it in your own life or by just by checking out the empty storefronts every time you go for a drive.
It’s like I was saying a few weeks ago, it’s not likely Obama is going to persuade anyone who lost their job during his presidency and hasn’t been able to find another that they’re better off than they were four years ago.
Everyone’s perspective is going to be skewed by their personal circumstances and that of their family and friends.
But the numbers are the numbers.
The economy added an estimated 114,000 jobs in September. And it turns out more jobs were created in July and August than initially reported as well.
And unlike last month, the improvement in the unemployment rate stems from people actually finding jobs as opposed to dropping out of the labor market.
In Illinois, 206,207 are individuals collecting unemployment insurance, down more than 92,000 from this time a year ago, according to the state Department of Employment Security.
It’s not great news, but good. Be happy for the people who found work. Be encouraged that it might continue, no matter who gets elected in November.
Conservatives are welcome to embrace conspiracy theories like the one propounded Friday by former GE Chairman Jack Welch via Twitter suggesting that the Obama administration had cooked the numbers to boost his re-election prospects.
“Unbelieveable jobs numbers . . . these Chicago guys will do anything . . . can’t debate so change numbers,” wrote Welch, who apparently had a reputation for manipulating financial data at GE (legally, of course).
I’m no expert on federal labor statistics, but the experts say Welch was spouting nonsense. The statistics may be flawed, but they are honestly produced.
In fact, some experts believe these federal jobs surveys are painting a bleaker employment picture than is actually the case. Welch could ask Chris Christie about that.
What I can say for sure is that if the White House could manipulate the data, then they should have started a whole lot sooner and done a whole lot better job of padding it.
Wall Street thought the jobs report was promising enough to send the Dow Jones Industrial average to a new five-year high on Friday.
Both candidates are welcome to spin the statistics any way they want. The president can press the case that he’s doing a good job of leading the recovery. Romney can continue to say he will do better if given the chance.
It’s certainly not the recovery we would prefer.
If Romney does get elected, I think he should appoint Donald Trump to lead a special investigative commission into unemployment data, right after he sends Trump and a contingent of federal troops into Hawaii to retrieve that birth certificate.