New Jobs Numbers Raise Economic — and Political — Questions

by Stuart Rothenberg April 6, 2013 · 10:00 AM EDT

The jobs numbers just reported for March — an increase of only 88,000 jobs — are horrendous, especially coming after February’s strong job surge (236,000 new jobs revised up to 268,000).

Forget the unemployment rate sliding from 7.7 percent to 7.6 percent. As The Associated Press noted, that drop resulted “only because more people stopped looking for work.”

One bad month of new jobs data isn’t likely to have a huge effect on President Barack Obama’s job approval numbers, and good news in the April report would quickly erase concerns about the March numbers.

But any sense over the next few months that the growing optimism about the economy has been misguided could send the Dow Jones industrial average down hundreds of points and put pressure on the president.

Democrats and Republicans, of course, will point fingers at each other if there is growing nervousness among American consumers. Democrats and the president would likely blame the sequester and Republicans if the economy stumbles, while the GOP is sure to counter that higher taxes and more regulation are crippling business.

Still, Obama remains at greatest risk to signs of another economic slow down — because voters often give the president credit for good news and blame him for bad news — and weakness in his job rating could effect his ability to push other issues, as well as his role in the 2014 midterm elections.