Do the jobs numbers matter to voters?
Republicans and Democrats use the monthly jobs report as a campaign tool and journalists analyze the numbers and political consequences ceaselessly. But for voters, circumstances in their own lives are better indicators of economic recovery.
(Page 2 of 3)
"To the average person, the economy is a very personal thing," says White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer. He said people look at different factors.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But which ones?
"Jobs is still No. 1," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "It's at the top of everyone's list. People might not know the government jobs number that comes out each month, but they see it every day in their lives." A close second right now, Zandi says, are gasoline prices, with the national average grazing $4 a gallon. But otherwise, inflation is generally muted.
Dan Connaghan, 69, a retiree in Traverse City, Mich., who supports Romney, agrees. "Unemployment figures don't have an effect on my vote." He questions their accuracy. But he also says there's one thing he knows for sure: "We're worse off than we were four years ago. No doubt about it."
Pollster Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, said the government numbers "give people a basis of confirmation of their own sense about the economic issues that are the most important to them. And right now, it's jobs."
Only 10 percent of the people in a recent Pew survey consider today's economic conditions "excellent" or "good," Kohut said.
To homeowners, the value of their house ranks high. With nearly half the nation's adult population owning stocks and other securities, mostly through 401(k) and similar programs at work or in pension funds, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is paid some heed.
At its Friday close, the Dow marked its highest level since December 2007, the first month of the recession.
Other reports are more ominous.
The government reported this past week that the income of the typical American household has fallen to levels last seen in 1995.
Interest rates are also followed by many. When they're low, as now, it means individuals and businesses with good credit can borrow money at exceptionally low rates.
But there is a down side. For savers and seniors on fixed-income, there are paltry payouts on balances often drawing interest of 1 percent or less. This only adds to anxiety, particularly among baby boomers and other older Americans, especially given the softness in housing prices.
Jabril Shaikh, 27, of Milwaukee, works at a temporary job in the legal department at a JPMorgan Chase bank. He considers himself underemployed and says he works with a lot of lawyers who are deeply in debt but are only temporary workers. "It's really sad and frustrating ... but this is all I can get right now, you know?"