SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) Five years after the nation emerged from a crippling recession, the economy finally appears to be on track for a more robust recovery, bolstered by strong recent job gains and an unemployment rate that dipped below 6 percent in September for the first time since the summer of 2008.
But the surprisingly rosy jobs report released by the government on Friday appeared to be too little, too late to bolster the prospects of Democratic candidates facing voters in struggling campaigns for next month’s midterm elections in the face of rising disenchantment with President Obama’s performance.
And the signs of improvement were tempered by evidence that wage gains remained meager and that millions of Americans were still so discouraged by their job prospects that they had lost contact with the regular employment system.
President Obama, visiting an automotive steel supply company in Indiana, seized on the strong jobs numbers as evidence that his economic policies had helped spur the recovery.
“There is a lot of good stuff happening in the economy right now, but what we all know is, there are still some challenges,” Mr. Obama said.
September’s unemployment rate was 5.9 percent, down from 6.1 percent in August.
Mr. Obama blamed Republicans for obstructing his proposals to help ordinary Americans. “Too much of the growth in income and wealth is going to the very top — not enough of it is being spread to the ordinary worker, and that means that we’ve still got some more work to do to put in place policies that make sure that the economy works not just for the few, but it works for everybody.”
The nation added 248,000 jobs in September across almost all sectors of the economy, according to the Labor Department, which also revised what had originally been a discouraging August report, now estimating that 180,000 jobs were added that month. The latest gains put 2014 on pace to be the best year for job growth since the late 1990s, when Bill Clinton was in office.
The private sector has now added 10.3 million jobs over 55 straight months of job growth, a record that White House economists trumpeted in their own analysis of the data.
September’s report seemed even brighter against a global backdrop of stagnant economies in Europe and Japan and disappointing growth in China and other emerging markets.
The strong showing on Friday was the last monthly jobs report before next month’s midterm elections. But voters’ opinions on the economy tend to lag considerably behind the actual numbers, so political analysts warned against expecting any huge improvement in mood in time for the voting. If the gains continue, however, they could help lift President Obama’s party in 2016.
For Democrats, there was also a dark underbelly in Friday’s bright news. The employment rate among the constituents they need most on Election Day — women, young people and black voters — did not improve in September. Nor did the numbers of people employed part time because they could not find full-time work.
The actual percentage of working-age people with jobs — 59 percent — has not changed for four months, a reflection of just how many people have stopped looking for work. In statements on Friday, Republicans blamed Obama’s economic policies for leaving the labor participation rate at its lowest level since 1978.
Representative Kevin Brady, the Republican chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, said the president’s leadership “has held our economic recovery back” and that Wall Street was the only sector that was thriving.
“Hard-working Americans want to know when the recovery is finally going to come to their street,” Representative Brady said in a statement.
Adding to the gloom, average hourly earnings are stuck in the mud, down slightly in September and up only 2 percent in the last year, barely ahead of inflation.
Economists said the slow pace of wage gains despite the sharp drop in the unemployment rate was a continuing puzzle that would test the Federal Reserve’s ability to balance its interest in promoting broad-based prosperity against the responsibility to curb the risk of future inflation.
Political consultants had thought opinions this year could shift more quickly, given how social media, cable news and information sources saturate the public consciousness. But Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster who teams with William McInturff, a Republican pollster, on polling for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, said the severity of the Great Recession had proved such predictions wrong.
As for news of the recovery, Mr. Hart said in describing a typical voter’s reaction, “What you’re telling me is the water in my basement has dropped a third, but what I’m telling you, I’ve got water in the basement.”
In August, Mr. Hart and Mr. McInturff released polling that found four in 10 Americans had been directly harmed by the recession caused by the financial crisis of 2008. What is worse for Democrats, political independents — the most coveted voters — were hit hardest of all. Fifty-one percent of independents said either they or a member of their household had lost a job in the last five years, compared with 39 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Democrats.