Could Colorado ease Obama’s unemployment headache?
DENVER — After a brutal month of May for President Barack Obama’s campaign, June got off to a rocky start Friday when the monthly jobs report showed unemployment ticking up for the first time in a year.
U.S. employers created 69,000 jobs last month, the fewest in a year, and the unemployment rate inched up from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent.
Speaking in Golden Valley, Minn. Friday, Obama put the best spin possible on the glum news by putting them in his preferred context.
“We’re still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Obama said. “The economy is growing again, but it’s not growing as fast as we want it to grow. Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months, but as we learned in today’s jobs report, we’re still not creating them as fast as we want.”
Of course, the numbers also come in the context of a presidential race that’s about to engage now that Mitt Romney has unofficially secured the Republican nomination.
Romney, in an interview on CNBC Friday morning, called the report “devastating.”
“The president’s policies and his handling of the economy has been dealt a harsh indictment,” Romney said. “We’ve had 40 straight months with unemployment over 8 percent. In many respects their policies have made it harder for the economy to recover.”
Whatever the national tracking polls reveal on a daily basis, the battle for 270 electoral votes will center on a handful of swing states, including Colorado; and, according to an analysis by Moody’s, the economic forecasts in many of those states offer Obama some solace.
A story Friday from Politico reports that, along with Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Virginia, Colorado’s economic recovery looks to be outpacing the rest of the country’s.
Moody’s forecasts that, by Election Day in November, Colorado’s unemployment rate will be roughly a full point lower than the nation’s.
“Colorado’s housing market is doing better than many other states, helping to boost the recovery,” writes Politico’s Ben Smith. “Growth in Colorado is coming from the tourism industry, health care, higher education, science and technology. Coal mining has suffered in the state while oil and natural-gas extraction are doing well.”
In April, Colorado’s unemployment rate actually rose from 7.8 percent, where it had been since January, to 7.9 percent; but it’s still down significantly in the last 12 months from the 8.4 percent unemployment rate in April 2011.
“The numbers in Colorado and Ohio and a number of other swing states may offer Obama some solace, but the reality is swing voters are likely to be swayed more by the national headlines and, thus, the national unemployment numbers,” said political analyst Eric Sondermann.
“I don’t know how many swing voters, who don’t generally pay that close attention to this stuff, are parsing the local unemployment rate and the national rate.”
Moreover, Sondermann said, Obama’s argument — essentially, blaming President George W. Bush for the economic mess he inherited — will be a tougher sell with voters than Romney’s argument that Obama is responsible.
“The Obama argument of ‘It’s their fault, look what I inherited’ is a tough case to make,” Sondermann said.
“Once you’ve been president for 3.5 years, no matter what the situation is you inherited, the public starts to think it’s now your economy, your administration, your situation and your responsibility.”