The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its October job report last Friday showing that the nation’s unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent, with the economy creating 171,000 jobs.
In the days leading up to its re-election victory on Tuesday, the Obama administration used the numbers to support the president’s economic policies.
“While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression,” said Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers. “It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.”
Higher unemployment rates, despite increasing job opportunities, can be explained by more people entering the work force. According to Olga Yakusheva, a Marquette professor of economics, the rise in unemployment can be a positive thing.
“Unemployment is measured as the fraction of people looking for a job in the labor force,” Yakusheva said. “When both employment and unemployment go up, that means that more people start looking for jobs, which is a good sign. This means that fewer people feel discouraged from looking for jobs and more people feel that there are jobs out there for them. Overall, the most recent job report was favorable.”
Whether the release of the October job report affected election results is debated. Kelsey Evans, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and a member of the College Democrats, said she believes the job report helped President Obama gain re-election.
“I think gradual improvement (in the economy) has definitely helped Obama,” Evans said. “For a lot of people, his decision to bail out the banks was a very risky one that wouldn’t necessarily pay off, but it’s showing itself now, and that was a huge factor.”
Zach Pagel, a freshman in the College of Business Administration and a member of the College Republicans, said he does not believe the economy is getting better fast enough.
“Although job numbers are slowly increasing, they are neither meeting population growth nor showing a healthy economic recovery,” said Pagel. “Voters in this election succumbed to Barack Obama’s divisive ‘class warfare’ tactics while ignoring the simple fact that he promised to cut the debt in half, yet increased it by $6 trillion, and also promised to have unemployment below 6 percent, while it stands at 7.9 percent today.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has been slowly declining since hitting a peak of 10 percent in October 2009. The unemployment rate has not been below 8 percent since January 2009, when it was 7.8 percent, matching September 2012’s rate. According to Yakusheva, this downward trend in unemployment will continue, regardless of who is in the Oval Office.
“Experts agree that most voters do not attribute the recent economic crisis or the slow recovery from it to the Obama administration,” she said. “As much as we all want a quick recovery, this was a bad recession that resulted from fundamental structural breaks in the economy around the world, and these things take time to get better. Regardless of who is (president), things will continue to improve.”