If the October jobs report had come out before Election Day, might Democrats have had a better night? Economic anxiety was the top concern cited by voters in exit polls. One will never know, but the White House can take comfort in the fact that it's doing something right. According to figures released Friday by the U.S. Labor Department, African-American employment dipped to 10.9 percent, from 11.0 percent in September. The national unemployment rate also fell slightly, from 5.9 percent to 5.8 percent, which is a six-year low.
In less upbeat news, the economy added just 214,000 jobs compared to September's impressive 248,000. But the Labor Department also reported that 31,000 more jobs were added in August and September than it had previously estimated. Despite nine consecutive months of strong job growth, however, Americans' pocketbooks are still feeling pinched, and average hourly pay rose just 0.3 percent over the 12 months that ended in September.
“The occupations seeing wage increases are primarily higher income and dominated by highly educated and skilled workers who are disproportionately white. Minorities have shifted from the decimated public and manufacturing workforce to an overwhelming representation in retail occupations such as customer service, administrative support, waste removal and security. These positions in particular have very little pressure to raise wages as they are rarely covered by collective bargaining agreements and there are a large number of idle workers able to perform them," said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad Sr., director of the NAACP's economic department. "Until we see significant growth in wages for all occupations and people, we cannot call this a full recovery."
President Obama reacted to the jobs report at the start of his Friday morning meeting with members of his cabinet. He put a positive spin on the numbers, but acknowledged the economic anxiety that voters talked about on Election Day.
"What we need now to do is to make sure that we build on this momentum, because we recognize that despite the solid growth, despite the drop in unemployment, there are still a lot of folks out there who are anxious about their futures, who are having trouble making ends meet at the end of the month or saving for their kids’ college education, or being able to make sure that they're able to retire with dignity and respect," the president said. "And so everything that we do for the next two years is designed and geared towards ensuring that folks who work hard in this country are able to get ahead."
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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