May unemployment report: What it means for you
There’s no sugarcoating this report: it’s bad news for President Obama.
Do bad Latino jobs numbers mean an opening for Mitt Romney ? Possibly.
While nearly every data point in the May jobs report was bleak, the news was even worse for Latino workers. Unemployment among Latinos spiked to 11 percent, up from 10.3 percent in April. That’s the highest Latino unemployment has been this year.
As The Fix points out, the trend in monthly jobs numbers will increasingly help shape the public perception of the economy in the summer months leading up to the party conventions.
If the May jobs report is an indicator that the labor market is beginning to take a downward dive, that could pose a significant political problem for President Obama. Republicans believe that could give their presidential nominee an opening with Latino voters that has proved to be elusive for months.
“I do think this is a tipping point for many reasons. People are now beginning to pay attention to the race. Romney just became the nominee, he’s just beginning to do outreach to different communities,” said Jennifer Korn, executive director of the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network.
“I think you will see it moving. Hispanics are paying attention to the economy, and that is their number one issue. If Romney can make his case, Obama is in danger of losing that wide margin he has,” added Korn, who led Latino outreach efforts for President Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.
But the Romney campaign’s belief that the economy will trump immigration and allow them to bring more Latinos into the fold faces its own set of challenges.
The former Massachusetts governor still has not convinced Latino voters that his economic strategy of reducing taxes and regulation is preferable to Obama’s.
While Latino voters’ approval of Obama’s handling of the economy stands at 54 percent, 61 percent would vote for the president over Romney, according to a new NBC/Telemundo poll (conducted before the May jobs report). Thirty-four percent of Latino voters are confident that Obama has the right strategy and goals to fix the economy (with 36 percent saying they are “somewhat confident”). However, only 15 percent are confident in Romney’s strategy, with 36 percent somewhat confident and 40 percent saying they’re not confident.
“[Latinos] have to believe that the other party offers a superior solution, which they don’t,” said Gary Segura, a principal at the pollster Latino Decisions. “No one today who thought the economy was bad thought it was good yesterday. I don’t see a lot of change for Latinos.”
While Romney’s team has been content to avoid speaking about immigration, the candidate will have to repair the trust deficit he faces on that issue in order to break through with Latinos. This is no easy task.
Romney will have a tough time gaining on Obama “as long as Obama changes the conversation to other things than the economy,” Segura said.
“I think because the economy is in the state that it’s in, Hispanics will still be voting with their pocketbooks,” said Korn. “That being said, Mitt Romney needs to get the Hispanic community to know who he is and where he is coming from and, yes, he will need to address the immigration issue.”
The one area where the jobs report could hurt Obama, Segura conceded, was in his ability to maintain enthusiasm levels among Latinos and motivate them to turn out at the polls.
If the economy continues to decline, Segura said, “it would depress the enthusiasm levels for people who are predisposed to vote for the president.”
A closer look at the numbers
This report highlights a clear trend: after a good first quarter, the U.S. economy is slowing steadily. The creation of an estimated 69,000 jobs in May is the lowest monthly total in a year.
The sluggish job growth in May appears to be part of a growing trend. Numbers from March and April were revised downward by a total of 49,000 jobs in the latest report. Government data also showed that the economy grew at a slower rate in the first three months of the year than originally estimated.
At 11 percent, the Latino unemployment rate is now 2.8 percentage points higher than the overall rate (during January-April it was on average 2.2 percentage points higher).
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
The sharper rise in Latino joblessness can be explained by a strong increase in the size of the Latino labor force (+314,000 in May) and a decline in the number of construction jobs (-28,000), in which Latinos are overrepresented. Employment in construction has not changed much since reaching a low in January 2011. The government also shed 13,000 jobs in May.
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Latinos represent the fastest growing segment of the U.S. labor force and while they were hard hit by the recession thus far they have had a strong recovery. A backslide in the recovery for Latinos would spell doom for the U.S. economic recovery (not to mention President Obama’s hopes of reelection).
This was another poor report but scouring the data we did find one piece of good news. Manufacturing employment continued its growth trend in May (+12,000) following a similar change in April (+9,000). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing employment has increased by 495,000 since its most recent low in January 2010.
(Photo: Flickr, Intel Photos)