President Obama's re-election just got a little easier with the Labor Department's Friday report that the economy created 192,000 jobs last month, helping to nudge the unemployment rate to just below 9 percent.
With a goal of pushing the rate below 8 percent before Election Day, the warming engines of the economy appear ready to rev up in time to speed the president across the finish line ahead of whichever Republican he runs against.
The surprise job growth was exactly what several economists and political advisers said would have to happen if Obama was going to be able to shake off concerns about joblessness and keep his job.
The Washington-based Hamilton Place Strategies just this week pegged the minimum monthly job growth that must occur to help Obama at 190,000. Today, partner Matt McDonald said that the new numbers should help Obama even more.
In his latest report provided to Whispers, McDonald said that the firm's "Employment Election Benchmark" was getting better for Obama because of the recent spurt of job creation. "For the unemployment rate to drop below 8 percent by Election Day 2012, the economy will have to create 190,000 new jobs per month going forward," he wrote.
But Obama's team shouldn't start chilling the bubbly. Because that rate does not include the millions of workers who have given up looking for jobs and that could be a problem for Obama and a challenge to the unemployment rate if they decide to jump back in as the economy improves. If just half of those re-enter the workforce between now and Election Day, says McDonald, an additional 110,000 jobs per month would have to be created, "which would raise the benchmark number from our current 190,000 to 300,000."
It's possible, he says, noting that the 1983 economic recover produced 330,000 jobs a month. "The problem for President Obama is that the window to achieve that kind of growth is closing. Without significant job growth this year, he will be in an economically challenging position to open the 2012 race," says McDonald.
See his report here.