US jobs numbers add another issue to campaign fodder
Washington (AFP) - When the US releases monthly job report Friday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will be on his way to New Hampshire, where the unemployment rate is tied for lowest in the nation.
By the time Trump takes the stage, his campaign will have pored over the Labor Department statistics on hiring, wages and unemployment in October. While the report is expected to show continued job growth and lower unemployment, a disappointing result could bolster his claims of American decline.
The consensus among analysts is for an additional 170,000 jobs created in October and for the unemployment rate to drop a tenth of a point to 4.9 percent -- a result that would be the envy of many developed nations.
The US economy this year has produced new jobs at an average of about 180,000 a month, with the unemployment rate holding firm at around 5 percent, as well as modest wage growth and productivity gains.
But throughout the campaign, Trump has portrayed the US economy as hollowed-out ruin, whatever the official numbers.
In most of the states where next Tuesday's election outcome will be decided -- such as Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia -- the labor picture is even better than the national average. That could complicate Trump's efforts to use the jobs report in an effort to broaden his support in the final days of a tightening race.
Barclays Research said it expects a 2.6 percent increase in wage growth compared to October 2015 as well as 175,000 net new jobs created.
That would "confirm ongoing strength in the labor market. The increase in payrolls, combined with the ongoing improvement in wages, should boost household income and keep consumption on track."
But Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told AFP he expects the report will be comparatively somber, with only about 130,000 jobs created.
"The logic I see is that we've had a lot of people who were willing to take very low-paying jobs because they had no alternative," he said. "That period is largely over."
Timothy Malloy of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said a downcast jobs report can only help the Republican candidate.
"Anything that tells us this recovery is not what the administration tells us it is, helps him," Malloy told AFP.
"Is this a good strategy with five days to go? Seems like it," he said. "How much more time can you spend on the emails and the FBI thing at this point? That horse has run."
- 'Phony numbers' -
Trump's claims on the economy have been debunked repeatedly by media fact-checkers. And when the numbers do not favor his argument, he and his campaign have impugned the government agencies that produce them.
In February, after winning the New Hampshire primary, Trump told supporters, "Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment."
"The number's probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent," he added.
PolitiFact said Trump's numbers were "not even close to accurate."
Among so-called swing states, only Nevada (5.8 percent), Pennsylvania (5.7 percent) and Arizona (5.5 percent) have unemployment rates above the national average. Elsewhere, jobless rates are below 5 percent. In Colorado, unemployment is as low as 3.6 percent.
But, paradoxically, those most receptive to Trump's message on the economy are not necessarily among the unemployed, according to a recent analysis by Gallup, which found only "mixed" evidence that economic distress has driven support to Trump.
Malloy said Trump's claims about the economy have not been tethered to federal statistics.
"He's been beating that drum of an extreme depiction of a country in crisis since the beginning and a lot of people believe it," Malloy said.