The latest jobs forecast is out, and it shows weak job growth but low unemployment in the American economy, with only 96,000 jobs added in September.
Economically, this isn’t surprising. With higher gas prices and already low unemployment, a lot of employers are taking a wait and see attitude. The rate of unemployment is 5.4%, which is actually quite low, especially when compared with other industrialized democracies. Manufacturing continues to be weak, which is also unsurprising. Manufacturing is no longer nearly as important as it was as the world translates to a service-based economy, and with the lifetime of durable goods expanding there isn’t as much demand. If your washer and dryer will last 10 years rather than 5, there’s less demand for new ones, and less need to manufacture them.
Politically this certainly does not help Bush at all. However, economic numbers don’t move elections. Most people don’t pay much attention to them. What does matter are economic perceptions. If people are worried about the economy, they’re more likely to support a challenger. This is certainly going to be a factor in Rust Belt states like Ohio in which the manufacturing sector has been especially hard hit. However, this has been a factor for some time, and it doesn’t seem to have quite the impact on the race that one would think. Even during the boom times of the 1990s manufacturing declined – and some have speculated that the voters in states like Ohio have heard the same story about how some politician will end the decline in manufacturing jobs and determined that it’s all a load of BS. Indeed, they’re probably right. No amount of economic protectionism will take the nation’s manufacturing base back to the 1960s. Technology means that manufactured goods last longer, reducing demand. Unless people want to go back to having appliances that simply stop working after a few years, the trend isn’t going to go away.
Clearly the economy is continuing to grow, and the unemployment rate remains low. However, this weak figure for job growth doesn’t look good, and it’s clear we’ll be hearing much about it during tonight’s debate.