The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its October non-surprise and you can read the entire, official report here. Please note the Hurricane Sandy disclaimer, which reminds all of us that these figures don’t include the influence of the storm upon economic activity in the Northeast. We’ll have to wait for next month’s report to see what sort of hit employment took from the weather but by that time, of course, the election will be over.
There is also this to think about: the reconstruction work undertaken to repair the damage will generate thousands of jobs for people who are out of work due to the hurricane. Some of these displacements will only be temporary and the benefits of repairing the electrical grid and other infrastructure will be long-term.
What we have to go on right now are incremental improvements in job growth and GDP, and a flat rate of unemployment (one tenth of a point at the national level is meaningless, statistically). The trends are on a positive trajectory and, indeed, the actual jobs numbers are better than predicted according to ABC News. The economy added 171,000 jobs, as opposed to the expected estimate of 125,000. This is good news for President Obama’s campaign but, of course, the Romney campaign will spin it to their advantage in any way possible.
More evidence of an improving economic outlook: The Conference Board reports the Consumer Confidence Index at its highest level since February, 2008. Notice that date – February, 2008 – 8 months prior to the presidential election, and 6 months prior to the our economic implosion, when Senator John McCain suspended his campaign to return to Washington, DC, to “rescue” the economy.
I have mentioned before that I work in the retail world, and call myself a canary in the retail coalmines. I knew in early 2008 – without benefit of the Conference Board’s later confirmation – we were heading for economic trouble that year because nobody was buying anything and nobody was applying for store credit.
The canary has been cheeping since September that there's 50% more holiday inventory in the stores than there was last year, sales and applications for store credit are both ahead of last year, too. That means folks have jobs and money to spend. Watch for a terrific holiday sales season, boys ‘n’ girls!