Jobs Numbers Could Affect Obama's Ability to Keep His Job

Reshondat | 6/7/2012, 4:41 p.m.

The unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in April. In May, it rose, just a tiny bit, to 8.2 percent. A tenth of a percentage point does not seem like a big deal. Indeed, the Department of Labor descries the unemployment rate as "essentially unchanged." And compared to this time last year, when the rate was 9 percent, people are mostly better off. But the magic number for many observers is a number below 8 percent.

According to many, should the unemployment rate drop to 7.5 or even 7.8 percent, President Obama will have something to point to in terms of labor market progress. Should it rise above 8.5 percent, Republican candidate Romney can continue to pound on him about economic failure (that is, when his team is not misspelling "Amercia"). What happens if the unemployment rate lingers between 7.8 percent and 8.5 percent is anybody's guess.

No help is likely to come from Congress. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives is hardly interested in economic stimulus that could help a Democratic president that they have consistently opposed. So President Obama and the business sector that supports him are pretty much left to their own devices when it comes to job creation. And it isn't that the unemployed will flock to Romney - they may simply stay home.

As always, the unemployment number the Bureau of Labor Statistics report is not the best number to review. When those marginally attached to the labor market and those who work part-time but want full time work are included, the unemployment rate soars to 14.8 percent. The Black unemployment rate rises to a depression-era level of 24.5 percent. Moreover the number of folk who haven't had a job for six months has risen. Now, 5.4 million people, 42.8 percent of the unemployed, haven't had a job for more than 27 weeks.

Candidate Romney, in hanging around Donald Trump and the "birther" crowd is counting on hysteria and trivia to drive him to victory. Romney says President Obama doesn't know how to create jobs, but this is the same man who says he "enjoys" firing people and who slashed employment when he was a corporate raider at Bain.

President Obama, too, must be cautioned against straying into trivial issues when economic issues are central. At the same time, the president is to be congratulated for taking a strong position on marriage equality. Some may say that it was a long time coming, and that it might be a calculated move to influence some votes in the election. But those who are watching carefully understand that whether it helps the election or hurts it (and some African American pastors are railing against this one), this was a matter of conscience for President Obama. Unfortunately, Romney has no such conscience. He knows the birther rap is nonsense. Yet he stands by a birther and says nothing. Hi own father was the subject of birther vitriol more than 40 years ago when he ran for president and it was revealed that he was born in Mexico.