The U.S. economy added 80,000 jobs in June, keeping the unemployment rate steady at 8.2 percent. The news suggests the recovery remains on tenuous ground at least as far as employment is concerned, coming on the heels of several months of weaker-than-expected jobs reports.
In another dispiriting sign earlier in the week, manufacturing job growth contracted for the first time in three years, casting doubt on a sector that has been a rare bright spot in recent months. In terms of its political impact, manufacturing growth is thought to have a disproportionate effect on voting patterns, and President Obama has pointed to the sector’s growth as one of his proudest achievements, especially in states like Ohio and Michigan.
Friday’s grim report is welcome news politically for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who is currently suffering through his most difficult week since securing the Republican nomination. On Friday, the Romney campaign reportedly agreed to add more veteran staffers after an array of critics on the right complained they had failed to come up with an effective message on health care or an adequate defense of Romney’s business record.
Obama has enjoyed a modest bump in recent polls, especially in swing states, that polls suggest may be connected to an aggressive strategy to paint Romney as an ultra-wealthy “corporate raider” who profited from layoffs, offshoring and foreign investments in places like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Romney campaign officials quickly took to Twitter to blame the White House for the latest news. Top strategist Kevin Madden repeated the campaign’s slogan “Obama isn’t working,” and referred to a “vicious cycle of low growth.”
“Once again, the monthly jobs report brings devastating news for the millions of Americans looking for work,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “The Obama economy is defined by chronically high unemployment. Our country is coming out of the worst quarter of job creation in two years. ObamaCare and President Obama’s other policies simply are not working and disappointed Americans are ready for a new direction.”
So far, several anemic jobs reports in a row have not had much of an immediate impact on the polls. There are a number of possible explanations: voters typically tell pollsters they blame President Bush more than Obama for weak economic conditions, for example, and several key swing states where Obama is currently leading are adding jobs at a faster rate than the national average. But with the economy the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds, there’s little doubt that the path to a second term is far easier for the president with strong job growth than without it.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.