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Robert Reich

What the lousy jobs picture means for Obama's future

The US jobs situation continues to worsen. If it doesn't get better by after Labor Day, Obama really needs to start worrying.

By Guest blogger / July 9, 2012

In this June 21 file photo, President Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The disappointing June jobs report is bad news for Obama, but Reich argues that he has until Labor Day before economic worries start seriously hurting his reelection chances.

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File

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Bad news for the U.S. economy and for Barack Obama. We’re in the jobs doldrums. Unemployment for June is stuck at 8.2 percent, the same as in May. And only 80,000 new jobs were added. 

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Robert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including “The Work of Nations,” his latest best-seller “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future," and a new e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His new movie, "Inequality for All," is available on Netflix. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

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Remember, 125,000 news jobs are needed just to keep up with the increase in the population of Americans who need jobs. That means the jobs situation continues to worsen. 

The average of 75,000 new jobs created in April, May and June contrasts sharply with the 226,000 new jobs created in January, February and March. 

In Ohio yesterday, Obama reiterated that he had inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression. That’s true. But the excuse is wearing thin. It’s his economy now, and most voters don’t care what he inherited. 

In fact, a good case can be made that the economy is out of Obama’s hands — that the European debt crisis and the slowdown in China will have far more impact on the U.S. economy over the next four months than anything Obama could come up with, even if he had the votes. 

It’s also out of the Fed’s hands. No matter how low the Fed keeps interest rates, it doesn’t matter between now and Election Day. Companies won’t borrow to expand if they don’t see enough consumers out there demanding their products. Consumers won’t spend if they’re worried about their jobs and paychecks. And consumers won’t borrow (or be able to borrow) if they don’t have the means. 

Yet Obama must show he understands the depth and breadth of this crisis, and is prepared to do large and bold things to turn the economy around in his second term if and when he does have the votes in Congress. So far, his proposals are policy miniatures relative to the size of the problem.  

The real political test comes after Labor Day. Before Labor Day, Americans aren’t really focused on the upcoming election. After Labor Day, they focus like a laser. If the economy is moving in the right direction then — if unemployment is dropping and jobs are increasing — Obama has a good chance of being reelected. If the jobs doldrums continue — or worse — he won’t be.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on www.robertreich.org.

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