Earlier this morning, Nate Silver argued that 150,000 was President Obama’s “magic number” for job growth, in part, because 150,000 is the dividing line between a bad report—where the economy isn’t growing fast enough to keep up with population—and a decent one, where it is. If the economy could generate that many jobs on a monthly basis, then Obama is on OK footing for the election in November.
Today’s report blows that magic number out of the water. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy created a whopping 243,000 jobs in January, with upward movement in nearly every sector of the economy, other than the government (public-sector jobs fell, again, by 14,000). What’s more, job growth for the last two months was revised upward, from 100,000 to 157,000 for November, and from 200,000 to 203,000 for December. Unemployment has fallen to 8.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since February 2009.
Indeed, for the first time in a long time, all of the indicators are in the right direction. Per capita personal income increased by 0.2 percent, labor-force participation went up, and some sectors—like manufacturing—have seen their most impressive growth since the late 1990s.
Is this a momentary blip, or will it last? Slate’s Matthew Yglesias is confident that this is the beginning of the economic recovery, or at least, the beginning of the beginning:
This increase in economic activity will boost state and local tax revenue and end the already slowing cycle of public sector layoffs. Re-employment in the construction, durable goods, and related transportation and warehousing functions will bolster income and push up spending on nondurables, restaurants, leisure and hospitality, and all the rest. Happy days, in other words, will be here again.
If we continue to see this kind of economic growth over the course of 2012, then there’s at least one thing we can predict for certain—Barack Obama’s re-electon. Republicans, you can probably guess, aren’t very happy about this. Here’s what I imagine their reaction to look like right now: