Economists Project Eight Percent Unemployment by Election Day

As far as political news is concerned, I would rate this as considerably more important than the minutae of what happens in the Republican primary elections today:

The economists think the unemployment rate will fall from its current 8.3 percent to 8 percent by Election Day. That’s better than their 8.4 percent estimate when surveyed in late December.

By the end of 2013, they predict unemployment will drop to 7.4 percent, down from their earlier estimate of 7.8 percent, according to the AP Economy Survey.

The U.S. economy has been improving steadily for months. Industrial output jumped in January after surging in December by the most in five years. Auto sales are booming. Consumer confidence has reached its highest point in a year. Even the housing market is showing signs of turning around.

That’s from a recently released survey of economists from the Associated Press. As it stands, it wouldn’t take much for the economy to reach 8 percent unemployment by November; according to this calculator from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the economy would need to grow by about 150,000 jobs for the next seven months to reach the 8 percent. If job growth continues to exceed 200,000—as it did in January and December—we’d reach that by the middle of the summer.

With job growth like that—absent a major scandal, economic shock, or foreign policy disaster—Barack Obama becomes a much more likely candidate for reelection. Which is to say that if the polled economists are right, then the outcome of Super Tuesday isn’t as important as it looks.

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