There’s just no way you can put a positive spin on it: the monthly jos report for May delivered some devastating news for President Obama. Last month, employers added only 69,000 jobs, which is the fewest added in the last year.
As late as the day before, economists were expecting at least 150,000 jobs added to the economy, which was still considered lackluster. And the economy needs to gain at least 250,000 jobs per month as a way to maintain any sort of recovery momentum.
Unemployment is now up to 8.2 percent – from 8.1 percent the previous month. Things with the economy clearly aren’t progressing, and for the Latino and African American communities, the unemployment rates rose .7 percent and .6 percent respectively.
These are two key groups the President is counting on to support him in November. The news clearly puts the Obama campaign on the defensive and suddenly transforms the 2012 election from a discussion on GOP competitor Mitt Romney’s as private equity capitalist vulture to a full scale referendum on Obama’s economic policies.
“The economy is growing again, but not as fast as we want it to grow,” was the President before an audience of manufacture workers in Minneapolis. He added that a debt crisis in Europe and the threat of high gas prices from problems in the Middle East were “cast[ing] a shadow” over the recovery.
“We have lot work to do to get where we need to be,” Obama added. “All these factors make it all the more challenging not just to recover but to lay the foundation for an economy built to last over the long term. But that’s our job.”
Jennifer Korn, the Executive Director of the Hispanic Leadership Network wasn’t buying it. “It is clear that President Obama still hasn’t delivered to the American people, especially the Hispanic community on the most important issue facing the country,” argued Korn in a statement to the press. “Hispanics are still experiencing an all-time high unemployment rate of 11.0 percent. Mr. President: where are the jobs?”
Through its Twitter feed, the Congressional Black Caucus blasted out messages encouraging the passage of the American Jobs Act as a way to get folks back to the work. Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) even sent out a tweet taunting Republicans “to give up their political games” and to move forward on passing a jobs bill.
And so the blame game continues on both sides with conservative groups insisting that the President hasn’t done enough and Democrats charging that GOP hasn’t moved swiftly to create jobs. Ultimately, it will come down to which group has the most credibility with communities of color.
Black support for the President is still the highest out of any subgroup polled by Gallup at 88 percent. For Hispanics, it is currently at 59 percent. Still, that’s distressingly lower than where African American support was in 2008: at 96% of all Black voters. Latino support was at an all time high of 67%. Obama will need to either repeat or surpass his 2008 performance.
These constituencies aren’t going to move too far away from President Obama in the general election. But there may be some gains for Republicans if they can eat away at the margins in key districts and states.
The other factor to keep in mind is that no president since FDR has won re-election when employment was over 7.2%. This means that the road to the White House will be a battle of epic proportions because Romney can continue to hit Obama on the economy and jobs. Yet, footage of Governor Romney talking about how he likes to fire people plus the GOP attacks on his record at Bain Capital will still give plenty of ammunition for Obama campaign ads and Democrats up for re-election. But, how much will that hold up if the economy goes back into a slump?
— Managing Editor Charles D. Ellison contributed to this report