With less than five weeks to go before the presidential election, Friday's September jobs report has become much more than a key barometer on the overall economy.
Just minutes after the Labor Department reported the lowest unemployment rate since January 2009, former GE CEO Jack Welch weighed in on twitter. "Unbelievable jobs numbers…these Chicago guys will do anything...can't debate so change numbers." (Note: the ellipses are his.)
And the political debate over the jobs report begins with just one more to go before the presidential election.
"It's a shock to hear that anybody can think that these numbers were manipulated," say Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, in the accompanying interview with The Daily Ticker. "Having followed these numbers for 25 years and knowing the people who put them out it's absolutely bizarre…It's outrageous. The data is based on surveys of tens of thousands of employers and households every month."
Here are the numbers:
•The Unemployment rate fell to 7.8% in September from 8.1% in August.
•Nonfarm payrolls ticked up 114,000—all but 10,000 at private employers.
•July and August payrolls were revised higher by 40,000 and 46,000, respectively.
•The workweek rose 0.1 to 34.5 hours.
•Average hourly earnings ticked up 7 cents to $23.58.
The report was in line with economists' expectations but still stocks reacted positively, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) rising to its highest level in almost five years to 13,662.
The most positive parts of the report, says Mishel, who's also co-author of The State of Working America, is the rise in the employment to population rate and the reasons behind it. It had been falling for several months but rose to 58.7% in September—not because the labor force is contracting but because more people are finding work. The labor force participation rate rose to 63.6% from 63.5% the month before.
Other highlights include: Government payrolls, which have been contracting long term, gained 10,000 jobs but manufacturing jobs fell by 16,000.
Mishel said the report shows a "nicely forward momentum" with a substantial drop in the unemployment rate and a substantial increase in the labor force, which rose by 418,000. But he says the increase in payrolls is "not fast enough to get a rapid decline in unemployment."
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