Today's favorable unemployment report may help President Obama's re-election campaign, but only if the job-creation trend continues strongly through 2012.
The government reported that 243,000 jobs were created in January and the unemployment rate declined from 8.5 to 8.3 percent, some unexpected good news. President Obama said the numbers show that "the economy is growing stronger" and "the recovery speeding up."
But the trend can't yet be seen as a game-changer that will erase voter unhappiness with Obama's handling of the economy. "The crucial thing is, is it moving in the right direction?" presidential historian Robert Dallek told me." If people feel the economy is turning up, it will give Obama a real boost."
That has yet to be seen.
In fact, the Congressional Budget Office forecast this week that joblessness could increase to 8.9 per cent by the end of 2012 and hit 9.2 per cent in 2013.
The Republicans, not surprisingly, argue that the latest numbers aren't good enough. "While today's jobs report brings welcome news of lower unemployment, far too many Americans are still out of work," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. "Our economy remains unacceptably weak, and families across the country are still struggling to make ends meet....Three years ago yesterday, President Obama said that if he didn't have the economy fixed 'in three years,' his presidency would 'be a one-term proposition. Today's unemployment numbers remind us that our economy is far from fixed. That, by the president's own standard, should make him a one-term president."