Political Animal


April 06, 2012 8:50 AM March Jobs Report: “Downside Surprise”

By Ed Kilgore

With the monthly ritual of the jobs report, as with presidential primaries, an awful lot of it is about beating expectations. And the March report emphatically did not. With dropping unemployment claims and widespread private estimates of a good month, the betting number for the official BLS report was at around 200,000 new jobs, close to February’s 227,000. But the actual number was 120,000. There was also a slight downward adjustment for the January numbers, but a slight upward adjustment for the February numbers. The unemployment rate was down very slightly from 8.3% to 8.2%, though it appears workforce participation was down, too. But in the world of political interpretation of jobs reports, had the unemployment rate gone slightly up rather than slightly down, the air would be filled with Republican cries of Disaster! Disaster! We’ll actually hear a lot of that anyway.

You may recall Nate Silver’s projection in February that Obama’s “magic number” for job creation between now and November in order to put himself in a very strong position for re-election was 150,000 jobs per month. The economy is still slightly ahead of that pace on average, but the latest figures obviously did not help.

More about this later as more information becomes available.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • stevio on April 06, 2012 9:00 AM:

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling...

    Oops. Just bird poo...

  • Ron Byers on April 06, 2012 9:19 AM:

    Guys, this isn't the greatest news, but the world isn't ending either. Sort of a push. Don't hit the panic button just yet. I suspect we are seeing the effects of money being drained out of the economy to the oil companies.

  • DAY on April 06, 2012 9:30 AM:

    let us not forget that these numbers are ALWAYS revised- usually upwards.
    Besides, this is just more arcane nonsense to occupy the bean counters. Voters don't pay attention to this sort of 'news', not with important stuff like the Caterpillar Wars and Obama Hates America to occupy them.

    The economy has been slowly improving for years now, and will continue, until the next recession. A recession we hope will wait until a republican is once again in the White House. Around 2024. . .

  • Blue Girl on April 06, 2012 9:40 AM:

    While I realize that my anecdotal observation is not the same thing as empirical data, I have noticed that here in the Kansas City area, the mild winter seems to have contributed to an earlier-than-usual start to the construction season. Maybe some of those higher-than-normal new-hire numbers earlier in the year are balancing out this month and that has something to do with it?

  • boatboy_srq on April 06, 2012 9:46 AM:

    The only way Obama can silence the GOP critics altogether would be to magically create private sector jobs for every single unemployed person - and then using the same magic create a pool of surplus labor that industry can call for its expansion and restructuring that grows and shrinks with demand and has zero impact on taxpayers and no immigration implications.

    Since nobody can do any of that from the White House, the GOP will continue to find something to whinge about. Until, that is, there's a Republican in the White House again, in which case none of it will matter anyway.