Spins October Job Numbers for Obama; Ignores New Low in Female Workforce Participation

Women's participation in the workforce is at a new Obama-term low -- 56.9 percent -- according to the October unemployment report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today. What's more, Ali Meyer of NewsBusters sister site noted today, "the number of women holding jobs declined by 357,000 from September to October, and the unemployment rate increased for women from 6.7 percent to 6.9 percent."

But over on, it was all happy talk and partisan spin about the October jobs report. Yes, the network that consistently grouses about an alleged Republican "war on women" had nothing to say about how more and more women are dropping OUT of the workforce thanks to the weak Obama economy. Instead, writer Suzy Khimm spun the results as generally positive for the Obama White House, made sure she quoted a pro-Obama economist, and closed her story by insisting job growth would be even better if not for those rascally congressional Republicans who shut down the government (emphasis mine):

Despite the government shutdown and debt-ceiling fiasco, the economy added more jobs than expected in October. The economy added 204,000 jobs last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

That’s better than the past year, on average, when job growth has averaged 190,000 per month. Revisions also added 60,000 more jobs to August and September. The jobs report suggests that the economy is picking up in spite of everything that Washington has done to get in its way. In terms of payroll numbers, “there were no discernible impacts of the partial federal government shutdown on the estimates of employment, hours, and earnings,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

It’s not all good news, however. The unemployment rate rose slightly from 7.2% to 7.3%, based on a separate survey that counts furloughed workers as “unemployed on temporary layoff.” In fact, the unemployment rate probably should have been higher, as some furloughed workers were misclassified in the survey, BLS says. But even if you discount furloughed workers, the number of employed people overall fell overall. And more are dropping out of the labor force altogether, as the participation rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 62.8 percent, which could partly reflect the shutdown hit to consumer confidence.

On the whole, the jobs numbers were better than expected, but the labor market still has a long way to go before it approaches anything close to pre-recession levels. “October’s results beat expectations, but expectations were low,” concludes former White House economist Jared Bernstein.

The shutdown is still expected to have hurt the economy in other ways. The halt to government activity disrupted private-sector business across the country, slowing growth. While some of that business will be made up for later, not all of it will: Vacations to national parks won’t be rescheduled; crab fishermen lost days in the season they won’t get back. That’s why analysts are expecting a hit to GDP growth this quarter.

So the fact that the recovery is continuing despite Washington is a good thing. But it could also be doing even better if Congress stopped sabotaging [sic] growth every few months.

Meanwhile Time magazine -- no conservative rag it -- tagged the October jobs report as a "bummer." Reporter Christopher Matthews explained why [emphasis mine; too see charts he references, visit his article here]:

The October jobs report came as a bit of surprise for analysts who were expecting the government shutdown to severely affect job growth, as the Labor Department announced the economy added a pretty robust 204,000 new jobs in October. That’s on top of upward revisions of job-growth estimates in September and August, which showed the economy supported 60,000 more jobs than previously thought.

These headline numbers can be a bit misleading however, and there are numbers deeper in the report that suggest that the shutdown had a pretty significant effect on the economy and employment. Furthermore, there’s plenty of evidence that shows that shutdown or no, the labor market simply isn’t recovering from the biggest issues facing it today.

What were the most worrying indicators? Though the unemployment rate has fallen quickly over the past couple years, much of that decline is due to workers dropping out of the labor force altogether. That trend continued with this report, as the labor force participation rate declined by 0.4% to the lowest level since 1978[.]

Another related figure to keep an eye on is the employment-population ratio. This can be a more informative measure of the labor market than the unemployment rate because it ignores the question of whether someone should be considered in or out of the labor market. Though we should generally expect this to decline as our workforce continues to age overall and a greater share of our population is retired, older folks, you can see in the chart below that we’re a long way from recovering from a decline in this number that was clearly a result of the financial crisis. This number also fell in today’s report.

Lastly, when you take a step back and look at the long-term trends employment trends in the economy, we’re simply not adding enough jobs to get the economy back to full strength any time soon. So far this year, we’ve seen an average of roughly 186,000 new jobs per month. We averaged 175,000 and 182,000 jobs per month in 2011 and 2012 respectively. If the pace of job growth is accelerating at all, it’s doing so only very slightly.
Four years into the recovery, we’re sill [sic] more than 1.5 million jobs short of peak jobs in 2008, and that’s after years of population growth. Adding more than 200,000 jobs in any given month is pretty good news, but any sober look at the bigger picture says it’s nowhere near good enough.

Yes, objectively speaking, the Obama economy is nowhere near good enough. But for the spinmeisters at MSNBC, it's good enough to be spun in Obama's favor and spoon-fed to loyal liberal readers who flock to the Lean Forward network's home on the Web.

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Economy Online Media Time Christopher Matthews (Time magazine writer) Suzy Khimm Barack Obama