Last month employment increased by only 80,000 jobs for the third consecutive month of less than expected hiring — and one-third of the new jobs were temporary. The unemployment rate was stuck at 8.2 percent.
The anemic job growth in the second quarter, averaging 75,000 jobs a month, was only one-third of the 226,000 a month created in the first quarter, again signaling that this recovery is in trouble. Indeed, for 13 million Americans who are out of work, the recession has not ended, nor will it until they can find jobs.
It’s a disturbing sign that factory employment slowed sharply in the second quarter versus the first quarter and retailers cut back on hiring, as did transportation companies and government. Manufacturing added another 11,000 jobs for the ninth month of increased hiring.
The outlook is not encouraging. As the New York Times put it, “It is increasingly apparent what the economy will look like when President Obama faces voters in November: pretty much what it looks like today.” In the face of the latest jobs numbers, the stronger-growth expectations of economists have been lowered. As a Conference Board analyst described it: “The economy has no forward momentum and little help from monetary or fiscal policy.”
The June jobs report sent stock markets sharply lower Friday with the Dow Jones industrial average losing 124 points. Consumer confidence is also down, reflecting the concern about where this economy is going. The question is: will it get worse before it gets better? The Federal Reserve last month downgraded its outlook to 1.9 percent to 2.4 percent growth in the economy this year and little hope for improvement in the jobless rate.
All this translates into trouble for President Obama, whose job performance is getting low marks. Sixty-three percent of Americans polled by Rasmussen Reports last week said the country is heading in the wrong direction. Another poll by Associated Press-Gfk found that more than 50 percent of those surveyed disapproved of how Obama is handling the economy.
Obama has again blamed predecessors for the economic woes and asked voters to take the long view. The presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, declared the 8.2 unemployment rate was “unacceptably high” and Obama’s policies “have clearly not been successful … .in reigniting this economy and putting people back to work.”
Despite the gloomy economic picture and Obama’s falling poll numbers, it’s not time for Republicans to start their victory dance. There are still four months to go before the election and anything can happen. However, Romney hit the nail on the head when he said: “American families are struggling. There is a lot of misery in America today.”
And as in the days of former President Jimmy Carter, the misery index will go a long way in determining who wins the presidential election.