Today’s jobs report and Obama’s magic number

Nate Silver published a longish post at his Times blog last month when the January jobs report was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that broke down what Obama’s chances of re-election are based on jobs added per month.

Basically, Silver estimates that Obama’s magic number is 150,000 new jobs per month. Any report that shows the economy adding between 150,000 to 175,000 jobs per month makes the president a slight favorite, and any report indicating as few as 125,000 jobs created makes him a slight dog.

Obviously, January was a pretty good month, as the February report indicated job growth of 234,000 jobs, well ahead of the pace needed. The March report, showing job growth in February, was due last week, but was delayed a week. There are some indications that it might be a weak month, as Gallup’s measure of unemployment (which is not seasonally adjusted) has gone up. On the other hand, ADP says the economy added 216,000 jobs last month. Regardless, we will be using the BLS numbers, not Gallup or ADP.

Here’s a chart showing cumulative job growth for 2012. I’ll be posting an update of this chart later today when the report is published and every month when the BLS releases its jobs report. The thin black line in the center represents the 150,000 jobs per month figure that Silver stated, and the green and red lines represent 175,000 and 125,000 jobs per month, respectively.

A word about this chart and Silver’s “magic number” theory. I do not mean to say that if jobs are above that green line in November that Obama will definitely be re-elected, nor will he necessarily not be re-elected if it falls below the red line. It changes the likelihood, but circumstances might arise that make these jobs numbers less relevant.

Nor am I suggesting that if the numbers are above the green line Obama should be re-elected and that he should not be re-elected if they fall below the red line. I will be supporting President Obama’s re-election regardless of where the jobs numbers are in November, and I expect that my conservative friends (yes, I have them!) won’t be supporting Obama even if the blue line shoots off the top of this chart.

Finally, I’m posting this information because I think it is interesting and informative, not because it happens to be good (for now) for Obama’s re-election chances. I’ll do this every month, regardless of where that blue line ends up in November.

In other words, these charts are for entertainment purposes only. Void where prohibited.


The jobs report came out just now, so here’s the new graph:

First, the January job numbers were revised from 234,000 to 284,000. Secondly, according to the BLS, the economy added 227,000 jobs in February. This seems like another solid jobs report for President Obama; however, unemployment remains unchanged at 8.3%.


Obviously, there are different opinions on what the “Magic Number” should be. Ezra Klein tweeted earlier today:

Grain of salt, yada yada.

Author: Wiesman

Husband, father, video game developer, liberal, and perpetual Underdog.

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