On Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest mortifying statistics on President Barack Hussein Obama's war on jobs, which showed that in February, the unemployment rate ticked down to 5.5 percent, while the economy added 295,000 jobs. Even with the jobs numbers for January being revised down by 18,000 jobs, the economy has still averaged 288,000 jobs created for the past 3 months. February also marks six months since President Obama beat Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's promise to lower the unemployment rate to 6% in four years. I guess Mitt was sort of right, Obama isn't working, Obama is workin' it!
The February jobs report marks another milestone, though, as this White House statement released Friday morning points out:
The private sector has added 12.0 million jobs over 60 straight months of job growth, extending the longest streak on record. Today we learned that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 295,000 in February, largely due to a 288,000 increase in private-sector employment. Although private-sector job gains in December and January were revised down, the private employment gains over the past twelve months total 3.2 million—the largest 12-month increase since 1998.
...The last time the private sector added more than 12 million jobs over five years was April 1996 to March 2001. There are some notable differences between the current stretch of job gains and the one from 1996 to 2001. In particular, the manufacturing sector has added 877,000 jobs over the last five years, while it lost 255,000 jobs during the 1996-2001 period. Moreover, the private-sector job gains during the 1996-2001 period coincided with the addition of more than 1.5 million State and local government positions; in contrast, over the last five years, State and local government employment has on net fallen by 423,000 jobs.
Now is the point at which you would normally expect a mashup of Republicans warning how everything Obama does will kill jobs, but I think you all get the picture by now. There will surely be more Fox News footage explaining why this is horrible news. Surely, there will be Republicans pointing out that job gains have not resulted in commensurate wage gains.
They hardly need to, though. President Obama announced the news at a town hall event on Friday, and once again skillfully avoided taking too much credit, because he already gets so much:
"We have not seen a streak like that in 37 years. Since Jimmy Carter was president..."
"The unemployment rate across the country, and here in South Carolina, is still higher than we want, which means we have more work to do. We have to make sure that those are good jobs that pay a living wage, and have benefits with them. We can't let up now. We have to do everything we can to keep this progress going."
First of all, I love Jimmy Carter, but I think even Jimmy Carter would say this is poor salesmanship. More broadly, though, the message is still almost an apology for bringing the whole thing up. You can say the same thing without sounding like you're waiting to get kicked in the nuts. For example, "We haven't seen a streak like that since before Reagan took office," and "Unemployment is still higher than we want, so let's keep doing what we did to knock it down this far!"
As for wages, it's true, they could be higher, but that lower unemployment rate has already begun to have an effect on that. Not two weeks ago, President Obama called Walmart's CEO to congratulate the company on raising its minimum wage to $9 an hour (sound familiar?). Other retailers are following suit and that's not because they're suddenly warriors for social justice, it's because unemployment is low enough that they have to actually compete for workers.
One of the most stubborn political problems of this presidency has been this administration's inability to sell its own accomplishments, especially on the economy. This has been aggravated by a news media that parrots the line that until every American has a high-wage job, the President must not act like the economic news is good or he'll seem out of touch. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month when President Obama took office. This is good news.