Analysts and Obama advisers maintain that the unemployment number itself is less important than the trajectory, and Obama aides are quick to note that the past recession drove unemployment up to 10 percent in 2009 before it began to drop.
"As long as people are seeing improvement, at least some voters are going to say to themselves, 'well, best not to switch horses in the middle of the stream,'" Bartlett said.
But the jobless numbers, the most attention-grabbing economic data point, also don't exist in a vacuum. Other indicators, taken together, present a mixed economic recovery that is trending positive.
Consumer confidence grew last month. Average rates on fixed mortgages fell to record lows for the second straight week and mortgage applications climbed 16.6 percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Still, underscoring the mixed picture, the Commerce Department said Thursday that factory orders fell 5.2 percent in August, the biggest drop in more than three years.
Last week, the Obama administration got some good news when the Labor Department reported that the economy added 386,000 more jobs than had previously been estimated in the 12 months ended in March. The revision officially put job creation under Obama's presidency in the black, with more jobs in the U.S. now than when he took office.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.