Payrolls gained in August, but at a slower pace than in the six previous months.

Lackluster Jobs Numbers That Won't Matter in November

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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It's jobs day today, and the numbers for August are disappointing, with payrolls rising just 142,000, ending six consecutive months of gains exceeding 200,000. Jared Bernstein has a good first look.

As far as electoral implications ... what I said about some of the earlier, stronger reports still holds: barring some sort of monstrous unexpected swing, we're not going to get much if any November reaction to any particular jobs number.

The broad jobs picture, and the broader economic situation, matter quite a bit - both directly, and indirectly through presidential approval. And if looked at over the course of the year, solid but unspectacular jobs growth is certainly better for the Democrats than a contracting job market, and worse for them than, well, spectacular jobs growth. There is a bit of a paradox here, because each individual jobs report or other economic indicator just isn't very important, but collectively they matter a lot. As it is, no single number is going to reflect a change in the general thrust of a recovery that continues but hasn't caught fire. And unemployment is a lagging indicator: We're unlikely to see the first signs of trouble (or greater health) in the jobs numbers.

Democrats could have worried because presidential approval is probably more sticky going up than going down, so any new concerns about the economy might have a more immediate effect than new reasons for confidence in those earlier reports. But that would have mattered far more if the jobs report had been a disaster, not just a relatively mild disappointment.

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To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net