U.S. President Barack Obama is undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief after the September U.S. jobs report showed the unemployment rate in the U.S. surprisingly trickled down to 7.8% from 8.1%.
That's the lowest level in 44 months – since January 2009, the same month President Obama took office.
But, the number of jobs added was shy of estimates, and the unemployment rate remains at an unhealthy and elevated level.
And as usual, there are scary statistics lurk behind that headline number.
"I take these numbers with an enormous grain of salt," economist Joshua Shapiro of consultancy MFR Inc. told The Wall Street Journal. "I think the underlying trend is pretty clear in terms of the labor market-that it's still struggling quite mightily."
The September U.S. Jobs Report: A Closer Look
U.S. Labor Department data released Friday revealed total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 114,000 workers last month, slightly missing economists' estimate of 115,000.
Total employment as measured by the government's household survey rose 873,000 in September.
But the bulk of the jobs added in September were for part-time workers, positions taken because of waning business conditions or because they were the only jobs those seeking work could find. The number of people who are working part time but want to be working full time rose by 582,000.
In addition, a great number of discouraged Americans have simply stopped looking for work or have exhausted unemployment benefits and fallen off the unemployment radar.
Also missing from the count is the out-of-work self-employed group. And a plethora of students are choosing additional education instead of work as a means to avoid a difficult job market.
Even if the "cooked" figure of 114,000 was accurate, it's still well below the minimum 125,000 jobs that need to be added every month just to keep up with population growth.
"When you look at the payroll numbers, they are bumping along where we have been around this 100,000 level, which is not enough to consistently reduce the unemployment rate. The overall message is one of plodding along. It's OK, it's not disastrous, but it's nowhere near where the Fed wants to be," Lee Ferridge, head of macro strategy for North America at State Street Global Markets stressed to CNBC.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 12 million Americans are still looking for work.
"Things are improving, but it's really a small down payment on a very big project we've got ahead. Politically, it's important news. It's nice to see the unemployment rate coming down," James Glassman, senior economist at JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) said of the September U.S. jobs report on Bloomberg Radio.
Political Implications of U.S. Jobs Report
A good look at the September U.S. jobs report shows how deeply troubled the job market remains and how slow the job market recovery is moving.
Both President Obama and Romney have had the difficult task of explaining how they will create more jobs, put Americans back to work and bring down the unemployment rate to what is considered a suitable level.
The president was quick to tout the fresh, politically important 7.8% jobless rate during a press conference Friday. He noted that while the numbers shows progress is being made, much more still needs to be done on the jobs front.
"That is why I am running for a second term," the president said.
The president is expected to hype the jobs number as he winds up his re-election campaign. But myriad political and economic analysts believe it will have little if any impact in swaying voters, as it does little to change the overall job picture.
Romney said in a statement Friday that the numbers aren't good enough.
"This is not what a real recovery looks like. We created fewer jobs in September than in August and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we've lost over 60,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office," Romney wrote.
He added that a "real unemployment rate" which included Americans who have dropped out of the labor force would be higher.
"The results of President Obama's failed policies are staggering-23 million Americans struggling for work, nearly one in six living in poverty and 47 million dependent on food stamps to feed themselves and their families," said Romney.
Romney continued, "There's no question in my mind that if the president were to be reelected you'll continue to see a middle-class squeeze with incomes going down and prices going up. You'll see chronic unemployment. We've had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8%."
Friday's report was the second to last one before the Nov. 6 election, and it followed Wednesday's debate in which each candidate laid out their policies to boost the job market.
President Obama reiterated that his American Jobs Act, proposed last September, never took flight and needs more time. The president's plan involves cutting payroll taxes for workers and employers, providing aid to states and increasing spending on public works projects.
Romney has pledged to create 12 million new jobs with rising incomes if elected. The GOP hopeful's plan includes developing the energy sector, maintaining our country's defense and reducing taxes.
The October U.S. jobs report will come out Nov. 2, four days before Election 2012.
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