I’ve been tracking the jobs reports each month and comparing the number of jobs created each month to the “magic numbers” suggested by Nate Silver and Ezra Klein. Silver’s number was first introduced here:
Reports that say more than 150,000 jobs have been created can generally be interpreted as good news for Mr. Obama. Reports that come in at under 150,000 jobs could put him on a trajectory toward defeat.
He then goes into a lengthy explanation of how he came up with that number, showing the basics of his methodology. Ezra Klein’s number just came from a tweet, possibly in reaction to Silver’s post.
My election rule of thumb. If average job growth is 150 in 2012, Romney favored. 200k, Obama narrowly wins. 250k, Obama easily wins.—
Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) March 09, 2012
With these two numbers in mind, here is the latest graph I posted based on the jobs report from last Friday:
But now Nate Silver has posted an update to his “magic number” analysis and combining approval ratings and normalized job creation rates of previous presidents seeking re-election comes up with:
This analysis does suggest that Mr. Obama’s breakeven number on job creation is now slightly lower than when we had calculated it a few months ago — about 125,000 jobs per month rather than 150,000.
He then goes even further, comparing job creation rates and approval ratings of all years and finds that:
Anyway, if you do re-run the numbers based on all years, and not just those where there was a true incumbent running, it suggests that Mr. Obama’s breakeven number is lower — about 75,000 jobs per month rather than 125,000.
But this number is waaay too good, which causes Silver to get a little cautious and remind us that job numbers aren’t a guarantee in predicting the winner, just one of many factors to consider.
I redid the latest chart with the “super optimistic” number included, but I still consider Silver’s original “magic number” of 150,000 jobs per month the best indicator.
If the numbers were to drop such that the economy only averages 75,000 jobs created per month in November, that would represent a net loss of where we are right now. That just doesn’t seem plausible to me.
If the economy loses jobs between now and November and Obama still manages reelection, then I would guess that there must have been significant external factors (margin among women, Latinos) that overwhelmed the economic indicators. I would think that the election would have to be considered unique, and not necessarily useful for future analysis.
Then again, maybe all elections are like that.
QUICK UPDATE: Upon further reflection, it seems to me that when Silver suggests 75,000 new jobs per month as a new magic number, he is talking about from this point on. I’m not 100% sure, but with that in mind, I did a quick edit of the new chart and it looks like this now:
This is far more plausible and means that Silver’s new “super optimistic” magic number is where his old underdog line was.
I’ll probably use this chart configuration for subsequent monthly updates.