Nancy Cook gives a great rundown on the reasons why today's jobless figure is good news, but not worthy of a celebration. But there's one more reason the administration is reacting cautiously, and it boils down to two words likely to strike fear in the heart of any government economist: jobless recovery. Yep, those words are starting to be tossed around to describe the U.S. economy's slow revival.
There are signs that parts of the economy are bouncing back, including the noteworthy return of Wall Street bonuses. But the people feeling the recovery are vastly outnumbered by those still reeling from the recession, especially the 1.1 million people who simply dropped out of the job market altogether. That number is really high, and of great significance when faced with the prospect of recovery without jobs.
With populism being all the rage these days, unemployment continues to be a big problem for the administration. Voters are likely to be more tolerant of the jobless number if there is a general increase in optimism about the economy, but only to a point. It also makes the newly popular reducing-the-deficit project more difficult as the unemployed rely more heavily on government support, including health care.
Today's number, and the specter of a jobless recovery, underscore why the president has so much riding on the success of the jobs bill. Unfortunately for him—and the millions of unemployed Americans—it will probably face a filibuster.