For the first time since 2009, the federal unemployment rate has dropped below 8 percent, a sign many analysts see as signs of a possible slow but steady turnaround of U.S. economy. Approximately 114,000 were added in September, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent, the lowest it has been since President Barack Obama entered office in January of 2009.
The economic picture is good for many, but the news is especially welcome to adult women, among whom the rate of unemployment dropped to 7 percent, the lowest of any demographic polled other than Asians.
Job gains were largest in health care, transportation, and the financial industry. Over 40,000 jobs were added in the health care sector, a move that likely was responsible for the good numbers for women this month.
Still, there is a way to go. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women have now gained back almost 47 percent of the private sector jobs they lost during the recession, about 5 percent more than their male counterparts. In the public sector, the numbers are less positive. Nearly 40 percent of the gains in the private sector have been countered by the extensive losses they faced in the public sector in jobs like government and education.
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“Today’s jobs data are encouraging—unemployment dropped for both women and men last month, and job gains were equally shared,” said Joan Entmacher, Vice President of Family Economic Security at the National Women’s Law Center via email statement. “But they also show a recovery that still has a long way to go, especially for the more than 4.8 million Americans who have been unable to find work for six months or longer. Policy makers need to stop the cuts to education, health care, and other public services that have cost women so many jobs during the recovery. They need to invest in strengthening our economy and help struggling families get back on their feet.”
Job numbers for July and August numbers, both initially disappointing, were revised upward as well, with revised July numbers at 181,000 and August’s at 142,000, up 40,000 and 46,000 per month respectively.
Politicos of both parties are looking at the numbers as a way to launch into the final weeks of campaign mode. THE GOP is seeing the numbers as a rallying point to accuse the administration of “cooking the books.” Via Newsmax, a known conservative news source:
“Unbelievable jobs numbers … these Chicago guys will do anything … can’t debate so change numbers,” [former CEO Jack] Welch said on his Twitter page, referring to President Barack Obama’s performance in the first presidential debate earlier this week.
Other experts expressed similar surprise.
“It’s a little confusing, to be honest with you. The number of jobs created wasn’t that high but the unemployment rate came down and the participation rate went up a little bit, so it’s confusing,” said Ron Florance, managing director of investment strategy for Wells Fargo Private Bank in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to Reuters.
“All in all, it doesn’t change the trajectory of what the jobs environment has been really for the last year. We continue to increase jobs but not at a rate that is fast enough to significantly change the unemployment picture for American workers.”
Meanwhile, progressive pundit Steve Benen writes over at Maddow Blog:
[T]he 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.
Unfortunately, the increase in hiring isn’t having much effect on the 40 percent of the unemployed who have been out of work for more than six months; there was no change in the job numbers for this demographic. Instead, hiring was mostly concentrated on those who have been out of work for five weeks or less. It is a hiring trend that could continue to be a double whammy for those who have been out of work for months and have seen their benefits already run out, or potentially run out more quickly as many states begin to reduce payments in as the rate decreases.