An Economic and Political Gray Area [Video]

An Economic and Political Gray Area [Video]

By Jim Tankersley | Updated: August 3, 2012 | 2:21 p.m.

The July jobs report was a heavy dose of Nothing’s Changed, for the U.S. economy and the presidential campaign.

The report showed that the economy added 163,000 net jobs last month, per the Labor Department’s survey of business payrolls; a separate survey of households showed nearly 200,000 job losses, pushing the unemployment rate up from 8.2 percent to 8.3 percent. Read those numbers thus: The economy is very slowly healing; the pace of recovery isn’t picking up; and, with a big caveat about Europe, we don’t seem to be headed back toward recession anytime soon.

As Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, put it in a snap reaction on Friday morning, “The data are consistent with an economy that, while not growing strongly, is not continuing to weaken sharply either.”

To paraphrase Newton, economies in motion tend to stay in motion, especially when fiscal and monetary policymakers refuse to boost them – and unless foreign fiscal crises blow up and stop them cold. That’s what we’ve got here: growth that isn’t good enough, and isn’t getting much better, but is still, for now, growth.

It looks increasingly likely, three months from Election Day, that this is the economic picture that will stick in voters’ minds when they select their next president. It does not appear to be the sort of picture that will tip the election either to President Obama or his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. A late-summer surge in hiring might have given an edge to the incumbent. A return to recession would be lifting the challenger.

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