But it remains to be seen whether Obama will be as lucky when it comes to the shape of the economy as the election year unfolds. Some of what will occur this year is partly within the president’s control; much is not.
Consider the several vulnerabilities of the still fragile recovery:
The Jobs Mirage. Democrats were cheered and Republicans caught off guard when the Labor Department’s December jobs numbers showed a net increase of 200,000 jobs — a nice improvement over previous months. However, a closer look showed that some 42,000 of these were seasonal courier jobs — all the people hired to deliver holiday gifts purchased via Amazon and other online vendors.
Jared Bernstein, the former senior Administration economic advisor now at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, calculates that the 200,000 jobs number should be deflated by about 30,000. This brings it closer in line with other recent months, and suggests that the economy is still a ways from a strong recovery.
The biggest problem retarding a strong recovery is that wages are lagging far behind the economy’s productivity growth. Recent Federal Reserve statistics show that consumers increased their borrowing to finance their holiday spending, but that can’t last unless wages begin following. (more…)