Romney's Bad Week Continues

Jobs Numbers: Good for Obama

Any number north of 150,000 helps the White House. That simple.

There is just no question that politically, a jobs number like 163,000 is good politically for Obama. It's tempered a bit by the uptick in the unemployment rate, but any number in the robust 100's is a plus for Obama.

The monthly jobs number has become so talismanic in recent months that it exists now almost purely as a shorthand for political advantage to one side or the other. Yes, I know it's real people and real jobs (and real lack of jobs). But I'm talking about Washington, where much reality is surreality to begin with.

There's a kind of a meter for it, which I've spoken of before. Below 100K is horribly deflating for Democrats and a great boost for Republicans. Then, 100K to 150K is kind of a wash. Above 150K is a Democratic win. And if you don't believe me, think about how you felt, whichever side you're on, last month, when the number was 70,000. Conservatives were elated, liberals bereft.

More substantively, look at this BLS chart. It's pretty sobering to remember just how awful the job losses were in the months since the crisis hit in September 2008: 432,000; 489,000; 803,000; 661,000. Losses. In the last four months of 2008. Similar hideous numbers through most of 2009.

Then, since October 2010, 22 straight months of gains. I'm not saying that merits reelection. But I do think that if someone sat you down and showed you this chart, and said it pertained to country X and you knew nothing about who the head of state was and what kind of government and ideology and so on, you'd look at the numbers and think that doesn't really look so bad, 22 straight months, given how awful things were.

Bottom line: If the next three months are at this month's figure or higher, Obama wins fairly easily. Romney's line today about a "hammer blow" is way off key. If he doesn't have anemic, 70,000-ish jobs numbers to bash, he has no rationale at all.