Why the Jobs Speech?

Back in July, the President’s chief political adviser inside the White House, David Plouffe, told Bloomberg, “the average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers. People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’”

A look behind last week’s unemployment numbers for August reveals a bleak picture. While the continuing 9.1% unemployment rate gets all the press, it’s a few other statistics that really stand out. For example, two constituencies that heavily supported the president in the 2008 election continue to suffer. The rate of unemployment among African-Americans and Hispanics average – 16.7%, and 11.3% respectively – continues to far exceed the national average. Also, the August jobs report showed that the number of “underemployed” Americans (i.e., people who are taking part time jobs because they can’t find full-time jobs) is increasing – up 400,000 in August. So 400,000 more people in August aren’t counted as “unemployed,” but they are unable to fully replace the income that they’ve lost.

Notwithstanding the political calculation back in July that unemployment statistics don’t impact voting behavior, it’s clear two months later that continued high unemployment is impacting the American psyche. And the Administration has moved from voters-don’t-vote-based-on-statistics to clear concern about the President’s re-electability and a speech on job creation this week before a joint session of Congress.

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