Jobless Claims Are at the Lowest Levels in Three Years, But It Might Not Be Enough to Help Obama

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Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

New claims from U.S. workers filing for unemployment benefits made a surprising drop last week. Economists expected the number to rise 9,000, but instead initial jobless claims for last week fell 20,000, down to 368,000. In fact, for the past three out of four weeks, claims have been below 400,000, which The Wall Street Journal says is "widely considered the point in which the economy is gaining more jobs than it's shedding." Still, the Federal Reserve expects unemployment to remain close to 9 percent until the end of the year.

That 9 percent figure could haunt Obama's quest for reelection. Without a leading Republican opponent, Reuters says the monthly unemployment report is "one of the best early guides to the president's re-election prospects." And it's not looking good. Analysts say that in order for voters to have some sense of optimism about the economic recovery, the jobless rate needs to fall below 8 percent by autumn of next year.

A recent Gallup poll showed a virtual tie among registered voters between President Obama and the as-yet-unidentified Republican candidate. Splitting votes evenly with a nameless elephant icon has got to hurt. But given some of the recent shenanigans from the prospective GOP candidates, maybe "nameless elephant icon" should consider a presidential exploratory committee.

Jobless Claims Drop [WSJ]
Will it be Obama vs the economy in 2012? [Reuters]