Jobs Reports Offer Peril and Promise for Obama and Rivals

President ObamaFriday’s news that the private sector added 227,000 jobs in February gives President Obama a renewed opportunity to boost his slow political recovery.

However, eight more jobs reports will follow in the months leading up to Election Day in November, each one an uncertain and potentially dangerous political moment for both President Obama and his Republican rivals.

Any given report could bring news of a slower pace of job growth and an uptick in the national unemployment rate, which is currently 8.3%. Conversely, gains in the labor market could continue to push the unemployment rate down, while boosting confidence in prospects for private sector job creation.

This uncertainty is the catch.

For President Obama, the last two months have supplied better news than expected in job creation numbers. Combined with a drop in the unemployment rate, last month’s jobs report caused Obama’s approval rating to rise and provided raw material for a new sense of optimism from the president and his administration.

Friday morning’s news will certainly encourage more positive rhetoric from the president. “Over the last two years, we’ve created over 3.5 million jobs, just in the private sector,” Mr. Obama said at a fund-raiser in New York last week. “Manufacturing is stronger than it’s been since the 1990s. We’ve now had 10 consecutive quarters of growth.”

The hopeful figures released in last month’s report gave Obama and his allies a potent political weapon. The evidence of economic improvement – even though it remains modest at this point –has deflated the rhetoric of Republican presidential candidates, especially Mitt Romney.

But just as quickly, a disappointing jobs report could shift political momentum in favor of the Republicans.

Alan B. Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, acknowledged this risk in a statement Friday morning.

“The monthly employment and unemployment numbers can be volatile, and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision,” Mr. Krueger said. “Therefore, as the administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report; nevertheless, the trend in job market indicators over recent months is an encouraging sign.”

Mr. Romney, who has largely based his campaign platform on claims that he can fix the economy, would benefit from some new ammunition to attack. Obama’s policies. Indications that U.S. growth is sputtering again – which will remain a distinct possibility in the face of rising oil prices and economic uncertainty in Europe – could lend new urgency to Romney’s arguments. It would certainly be injudicious for Romney to be seen as rooting for a slowdown; but if one happens, he will inevitably seize on it.

It is hard to foresee exactly how these trends will affect Washington workers; the state unemployment rate currently stands at 8.6%, as compared to 8.3% nationally. However, the state budget crisis could easily trigger more job loss among government workers.

Unfortunately, Washington residents not only feel the continued squeeze of unemployment, but also face additional struggles within the workplace itself, such as wrongful termination, workplace discrimination, obstacles in collecting workers compensation benefits, and the difficult gauntlet of managing a Labor & Industries Claim (including the need to appeal a rejected L&I claim). Many injured workers do not fully understand their rights, and find themselves taken advantage of when they attend an L&I Independent Medical Exam. If you face any of these issues, please contact an L&I Lawyer or a Seattle Employment Attorney at Emery Reddy today.

Emery Reddy