New York Times Sees 'Good News for Obama' in Latest Mediocre Jobs Data

The jobs report released Friday morning showed a 7.8% unemployment rate, down from 8.1% last month, a historically high figure which New York Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt characterized as good news for the president: "Jobs Report Brings Unexpected Good News for Obama."

After a lackluster debate, President Obama faced the prospect of a second piece of bad political news with Friday morning’s jobs report. Instead, Mr. Obama -- and the economy -- received some unexpected good news.

Economists will spend the rest of the day parsing the numbers and arguing over exactly the best way to describe the report, but there is little question about its overall thrust: positive.

An energized President Obama, appearing at a campaign rally outside Washington, seized on the news, saying “this country has come too far to turn back.”

Speaking to 1,935 supporters at George Mason University a few hours after the numbers were released, Mr. Obama said, “This morning, we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since I took office. More Americans entered the work force; more people are getting jobs.”

After giving Romney three paragraphs of dissent, Leonhardt found a booster for the jobs report:

In a note to clients, Jim O’Sullivan, the chief United States economist at High Frequency Economics, a research firm, called it “a much stronger report than expected.”

By contrast, the MRC's Julia Seymour and Dan Gainor quoted Dean Baker of the left-wing Center for Economic and Policy Research calling the result “almost certainly a statistical fluke.”

Reporter Shaila Dewan filed the main news report for the Times and was almost as cheery as Leonhardt.

The nation’s unemployment rate dropped sharply to 7.8 percent in September, its lowest level since the month President Obama took office, the Labor Department said Friday.

While employers added only a modest 114,000 jobs last month, the jobless rate declined from 8.1 percent in August. The unemployment rate fell because more people were working, not because discouraged job seekers stopped looking, the numbers showed.

Adding to the positive news, job gains were revised upward by 40,000 for July (to 181,000) and by 46,000 for August (to 142,000), casting a slightly rosier light on what had been perceived as a summer slump.

Rising employment is good news for President Obama a month before the election as he vies to convince voters that he is better equipped than his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, to steer the economy back to health.