If I had a nickel for every time Mitt Romney has said the unemployment rate has been above 8% throughout the Obama presidency, I’d have, well, nearly as much money as Mitt Romney.
Today, however, the talking point died. The unemployment rate fell unexpectedly, dropping from 8.1% to 7.8%.
As we’ve discussed before, decreases in the jobless rate are not always good news – the figure sometimes falls when discouraged Americans drop out of the workforce altogether – but that’s not the case with the new data. The employment-to-population ratio went up, job creation went up, and the labor force went up.
In other words, the drop in the unemployment rate is heartening, not discouraging.
And given that there’s a presidential election in 32 days, the figure carries a heavy political salience. In February 2009, President Obama’s first full month in office, the jobless rate was 8.3% and climbing. As of today, it’s 7.8% and falling.
Literally every day for a long while, Romney and his allies have said Obama must be a failure based on this metric alone. The Republican said in Wednesday’s debate, “We’ve had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent.”
It’s always been a ridiculous argument – blaming Obama for the jobs crisis he inherited and helped alleviate is absurd – but now it’s also a bogus one.
Of course, the news also seems to lead to a follow-up question for Romney: if unemployment above 8% is proof that Obama should lose, does an unemployment rate below 8% prove that Obama deserves to win?
Live by the unemployment rate; die by the unemployment.