According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy created 157,000 jobs in January, a solid number, though behind what we need to see a robust recovery. More important, as always, are the revisions. November’s job growth was revised to 247,000 (up from 161,000) and December’s was revised to 196,000 (up from 155,000).
These are big revisions, and when analyzed as part of a trend, it’s clear that the government was been underestimating job growth for most of 2012, to the tune of 28,000 jobs a month.
It should be said that this makes Barack Obama’s re-election victory even easier to explain. If the president’s standing was higher than expected, it’s because economic conditions were much better than we thought. And if Obama’s approval rating has seen a big, post-election bump—and it has—it might have something to do with the fact that employment growth broke the 200,000 barrier in November.
Mitt Romney has received a huge amount of opprobrium for the tenor of his campaign—“47 percent”—and his alienating, right-wing policies on everything from taxes to reproductive health. And it’s true that those affected his standing with voters. But not by much. If these employment revisions show anything, it’s that—regardless of his campaign—he was at a disadvantage. All things equal, incumbents win when the economy is growing. The economy was growing in 2012, and Barack Obama won as a result.