The U.S. economy added 661,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate fell to 7.9%. That rate matches the same rate in the last jobs report before President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012.
Though the number of jobs added was lower than the 800,000 analysis had expected, the 7.9% rate was also better than expected. Economists had predicted that the rate would fall to 8.2%.
In 2012, the unemployment rate was closely watched as a potential political barometer. No president had ever won re-election with unemployment at 7.2% or higher.
Just over a year before, in 2011, the unemployment rate had hovered around 9% — far higher than the 8% that Obama administration economists had predicted when they argued for the 2009 stimulus.
But despite the slow recovery, the unemployment rate ticked steadily downward, and eventually broke through the 8% barrier, making that all-important numeral “seven” the first digit.
The media offered a rosy outlook: “Even at 7.9%, mostly good news for Obama,” the USA Today reported.
Today, some analysts cast 7.9% as a disappointment, partly because the overall jobs number missed the mark. Politico‘s Ben White, for example:
Dow now set to open around 400 points lower after poor jobs report added to Trump Covid news. https://t.co/tTzrgANeCg
— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) October 2, 2020
Dow futures had already fallen by 400 points overnight in reaction to news that President DonaldTrump and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus.
The September 2020 jobs report will be the last one released before the November election, which falls on November 3, making the first Friday of the month — when the jobs report is released — November 7.