The latest U.S. jobs report could be good news for President Obama’s re-election campaign, experts say, but even better news for minority communities that have borne the brunt of a sluggish labor market.

Overall unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent and total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 114,000 in September, according to the latest jobs summary released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Oct. 5. More significantly, the drop in the unemployment rate was due to people getting jobs, not due to them leaving the labor force.

The report “provides a reason to be a little more optimistic about job opportunities for American workers than we have been in recent months,” said economist Heidi Sheirholz, of the Economic Policy Institute, in an analysis.

It also provides a reason for the Obama campaign to be optimistic, some political analysts say. The limping economy, particularly persistently discouraging employment numbers, has been the chief stick with which Republicans have attacked the president.

“All the predictions were that no president has been re-elected with unemployment rates above 8 percent,” said Dianne Pinderhughes, professor of political science and Africana studies at the University of Notre Dame. Now, with the current job numbers, “it’s a way for the president to say my policies are working and they will continue to improve the economy.”

Some political analysts say, however, that beyond acting as a “firewall” to draw attention away from Obama’s poor debate performance on Oct. 3, the jobs report could have little real impact on the elections.

“If people had been voting just on the economy, (Republican challenger) Mitt Romney would have been leading all along. A lot of this is about likeability and familiarity and trust,” said Jason Johnson, a political analyst at Hiram College, Ohio.

“In this election, everything is a big deal and nothing really matters because everybody knows how they’re going to vote,” Johnson said. He added: “Ultimately, these job numbers only impact enthusiasm: It gives Democrats something to be enthusiastic about.”

That spike in enthusiasm could more apparent among Black and Hispanic voters given the rosier jobs picture that emerged last month.

In September, 13.4 percent of Black workers, or 2.44 million people, sought work but couldn’t secure it. That was down from the 14.5 percent of Black workers, or 2.68 million Black men and women who were unable to find jobs the month before.

Among Latino workers, 9.4 percent, or 2.3 million men and women, couldn’t find gainful employment. But that was an improvement from the 10.1 percent, or 2.45 million workers, who were jobless in August.

The latest figures brought unemployment figures among African Americans and Hispanics to levels not seen since 2009 and 2008.

The improvement could give President Obama some breathing space from critics who lambasted him for not utilitizing more targeted policies to counter the joblessness within these minority communities.

It hasn’t earned him any points among Republicans, however. Some conservative critics have accused the Obama administration of doctoring the September jobs numbers to better his chances in November. General Electric ex-CEO Jack Welch tweeted on Oct. 5: “Unbelievable jobs numbers…these Chicago guys will do anything…can’t debate so change numbers.”

Experts say not only are the accusations baseless–the Bureau of Labor Statistics chooses the survey participants randomly–but ridiculous.

“The very same polls Republicans have been using to beat Obama over the head with all year, now they’re fake?” Johnson said.

“It’s amazing,” added Pinderhughes about the accusations, “but it’s more of the same behavior: Whatever happens under an Obama administration Republicans cannot accept or tolerate it.”


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO