'Hey, dude, where's my job?'
There's economic news everywhere this morning, it seems -- and a poll, of course. And when you mash them all up together -- well, you do the reacting.
Let's start with the jobs report. Some 51,000 jobs were lost in June -- the month that saw the end of the presidential primary season, so those personal worries were already weighing heavily on voters' minds. The drop was a bit less than economists had forecast, but that's hardly a silver lining. The new unemployment rate is 5.7%, up from 5.5% in May and 5.0% in April. Mind you, that just measures people looking for work, and doesn't include those -- particularly in remote rural areas, urban cores and the Rust Belt -- who have given up. As Bloomberg put it:
The last time the unemployment rate climbed so much in four months was in 2001, when the U.S. was last in a recession. Job losses have combined with decreasing property values, stricter lending rules and near-record energy prices to send consumer confidence levels close to the weakest in 16 years in July.
And the pace continues -- Bloomberg says the Labor Department announced Thursday that more people made first-time claims for unemployment last week than at any time over the last five years.
Second economic bit this morning: General Motors' posted a massive $15.5-billion quarterly loss through June 30. For scale, the city of Los Angeles' current annual budget is about $7 billion -- so GM lost in three months more than what L.A. spends in two years. Of course, the lost money has to be somewhere, like the twin of that matchless sock that comes out of the laundry. Looks like Exxon found most of it, posting an $11.7-billion profit in the same quarter (and relax, yes, we know Exxon didn't really find GM's cash, that's just a rhetorical device. Exxon has your cash).
And as you might suspect, the economy remains the dominant issue on the presidential campaign because voters are deeply worried -- even those with jobs. A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press includes some rather chilling findings. More than one in three Americans say they are beginning to have trouble affording food, and those who cited inflation as the nation's biggest economic problem jumped from 24% in February to 45% in June. And nearly three out of four said something could be done about it.
So what does that mean for the presidential race?
[N]early nine-in-ten voters (87%) say that when it comes to the economy, it matters who is elected president; 64% say it matters a great deal. In this regard, far more voters say that Barack Obama, rather than John McCain, can do a better job of improving economic conditions (47% to 32%). This is a slightly narrower advantage for Obama on the economy than in June (51% to 31%); however, the survey also finds that McCain’s advantage on terrorism is a bit smaller than it was a month ago. Moreover, Obama runs about even with McCain as the candidate better able to handle foreign policy (43% McCain vs. 42% Obama). In September 2004, George Bush held a 16-point lead over John Kerry on foreign policy.
The candidates' statements this morning on the jobs report are after the jump.
-- Scott Martelle
McCain campaign release on the jobs figures:
Arlington, Va. -- U.S. Senator John McCain today issued the following statement on the jobs report:
"Across this country, Americans are hurting and today's job numbers are just the latest reminder of the economic challenges we face. We must enact a Jobs for America plan that supports job creation and helps small businesses, which even in these tough economic times are creating jobs.
"Unlike Senator Obama, I do not believe that raising taxes is the answer to our economic problems. There is no surer way to force jobs overseas than to raise taxes on businesses. The American people cannot afford economic policies that will take us backward."
Obama campaign statement:
Chicago -- Senator Obama today released the following statement on the latest jobs report and unveiled an Emergency Economic Plan that will take the excess profits of oil companies to help working families deal with energy costs with new $1,000 rebate checks and enact a $50 billion package to save more than 1 million jobs.
“Today, we learned that 51,000 jobs were lost last month, the seventh straight month of job loss – now totaling 463,00 jobs lost since the beginning of this year. I’ve already called for an economic stimulus package on two different occasions this year, and much of what I’ve proposed has passed in Congress. These efforts have made some difference. But with job losses mounting, prices rising, increased turbulence in our financial system, and a growing credit crunch, we need to do more.
"That’s why today I’m announcing a two-part emergency plan to help struggling families make ends meet and get our economy back on track. The first part of my plan is a $1,000 emergency energy rebate that could go out to families as soon as this fall. This rebate will be enough to offset the increased cost of gas for a working family over the next 4 months. Or, if you live in a state where it gets very cold in the winter, it will be enough to cover the entire increase in your heating bills. Or you could use the rebate for any of your other bills or even to pay down debt. As we provide relief, we must also be mindful of the swelling budget deficit. That is why I am proposing that we pay for this rebate by taxing the windfall profits of oil companies so we can use some of their record profits to help families pay record prices.
"The second part of my plan is a $50 billion stimulus to help jump-start job creation and help local communities that are struggling due to our economic downturn. Half of this stimulus will go to state governments that are facing big budget shortfalls. The other half of this stimulus will be used to invest in our national infrastructure, replenish the Highway Trust Fund, rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, and repair our crumbling schools.
"Today’s jobs report is an urgent reminder that we cannot afford four more years of the failed Bush economic policies, and that is what Senator McCain is offering. He’s proposing to cut the gasoline tax paid by the oil companies and trust that they will pass on the savings in the form of lower prices at the pump. And he’s also proposing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans in the hopes that a little bit of it will trickle down to ordinary Americans. I do not believe that giving $4 billion in new tax cuts to oil companies will create any jobs or save you any money. I believe that if we want relief for families, we should give relief to families, not oil companies. If we want to create jobs, we should do more to make work pay for ordinary Americans, not boost the profits of oil companies. It’s time to restore fairness and balance to our economy and we can start by passing the emergency economic plan that I’m proposing today."