Hillary Clinton must be feeling a little better this morning after the Labor Department reported that the economy got back to its plus-200,000+ jobs ways. In April, an estimated 223,000 jobs were created and the unemployment rate ticked down slightly to 5.4 percent, the lowest its been since May 2008. (That extends the longest streak in the history of the nation of private sector job growth.)
That comes on the heels of what had been a string of fairly disappointing economic reports, including a 0.2 percent growth rate in the first quarter that will likely be revised even lower, and “only” 85,000 jobs created in March.
It seems as though we are in a bit of an economic groundhog day. Early in the year, with winters seemingly getting colder and more brutal, the economy all but stalls out during the first quarter, like it did during the first three months of 2014 when the economy contracted by more than 2 percent. For those who want to see the recovery continue, even with an occasional hiccup, a repeat of 2014 wouldn’t be a bad thing. After that initial bad, weather-related first quarter, growth bounced back and the job creation rate took off.
The question, before this morning, was whether or not we’d see a repeat. We still can’t say with any certainty - despite what your nearest economist projects - but another bad jobs report would have increased fears (always lurking in the background) that the economy would stall this time for reasons that had nothing to do with the weather. For example, the big drop in oil and gas prices was supposed to lead to a big increase in consumer spending, spurring growth. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, the low prices have led to a lot of layoffs in the domestic oil industry and to a stronger dollar, the strongest its been in years, which has made it harder to sell American-produced goods internationally and driven up the trade deficit, which affects overall economic growth in the U.S.
The hope remains that that won’t be too big of a drag and that the U.S. will continue having the healthiest economy of the rich nations. The jobs report this morning, along with the historically low jobless claims report yesterday, and a few other recent reports, suggest that maybe - maybe - the recovery is and will continue.
That’s from a practical, pragmatic standpoint. A strong, growing economy is best for us all. But from a political standpoint, an economy that continues recovering is great for the folks who currently have the White House (Democrats) and the probable Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. While I doubt Republican candidates want the economy to stall out and layoffs to spike again, they do understand that a weakening economy enhances their chances in the same way the Great Recession helped then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008.
So, for this month, at least, if you are a Clinton fan, this morning’s jobs report should make you smile, because the stronger the economy, the more likely your candidate will be taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017. For fans of Republican candidates, like 2012, you shouldn’t rely upon a bad economy to pull your guy to the top. He (or she) will have to resonate with voters in a different way.