It wasn’t great, but it was good enough.
The October jobs report missed expectations on Friday, indicating the US added 161,000 jobs to the economy over the past month, lower than the consensus expectation for 178,000.
Despite the miss, the details of the report and the still solid-enough headline number should help Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s case for the American economy.
Essentially, Clinton’s case is that the economy is on the right track after pulling itself out of the depths of the worst recession since the Great Depression. On the other hand, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made his case that America is losing and needs to be made great again.
While the headline number may be lacklustre, the fact that it is still growing may be enough for Clinton’s argument. A positive change in jobs added between the first and third quarters is generally correlated with a victory for the incumbent party. There’s been a net addition of 1,638,000 to payrolls since January, and the last time the incumbent party lost with a jobs gain between January and October equal to or above the growth in 2016 was 1976.
The biggest case for Clinton, however, probably comes in the form of worker’s paychecks. Average hourly earnings hit a post-recession high in Friday’s report at 2.8% year-over-year growth and look poised to grow over 3% over the course of 2016. It’s hard to make a case that American workers are struggling when wages are moving up at what finally looks like a healthy rate.
Other underlying factors should help Clinton too. The median time an unemployed worker is looking for a job hit a post-recession low. The U6 unemployment rate, which measures not only those unemployed but also workers with a part-time job that are seeking full-time employment, hit a post-recession low.
Even Americans with jobs feel good about the labour market. As noted by Neil Dutta at Renaissance Macro in an email following the report, the quits rate for workers hit 12.1% in October, the highest since the financial crisis.
Throw in other economic indicators such as last week’s GDP report, solid showings for manufacturing in recent months, and strong consumer spending and the economic case for a Clinton win seems strong.
Even the markets seem to point to the jobs report as a good thing for Clinton. The most common market proxy for the election, the Mexican peso’s strength against the US dollar, looked good for Clinton as the peso strengthened immediately following the release of the report.
When it comes down to it, the jobs report wasn’t gangbusters, but given the underlying strength and apparent tight labour market, it may be enough to indicate that Americans feel good about their economic situation. Thus, it’s better news for Hillary Clinton.