Friday's jobs report showing a gain of 252,000 positions and a dip to a 5.6 percent unemployment rate offered up more good news for President Barack Obama, who is wrapping up a weeklong road trip to tout the improving economy and offer up fresh proposals on housing and education in advance of his State of the Union address later this month.
Obama, as I reported Friday at more length in Politico, can rightly take credit for some of the improvement in the economy given his early moves on the auto and Wall Street bailouts, the stimulus and actions to bolster the Federal Reserve and hold the line on even greater spending cuts after Republicans took control of the House in 2010.
But the December jobs report also highlighted continuing lines of attack Republicans will be able to make as they craft economic policy in the new Congress and hit the trail for the 2016 presidential campaign.
The report showed that average hourly earnings decreased by 5 cents to $24.57, following an increase of 6 cents in November. On the year, average hourly earnings have risen just 1.7 percent, barely enough to keep pace with inflation. The encouraging 0.4 percent increase in wages reported in November got revised back down to 0.2 percent.
The long-awaited rise in wages still shows few signs of actually materializing, indicating that slack in the labor market remains despite the drop in the overall unemployment rate close to the level at which the Fed will likely have no choice but to start boosting interest rates.