WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton received another piece of good news to head into the weekend with: a stellar jobs report.
The Labor Department announced Friday that the U.S. economy added 271,000 jobs in October, pushing the unemployment rate down to 5%. To put that figure in perspective, the last time the jobless rate was 5% was in April 2008 — when Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama were battling for the Democratic nomination for president. At the end of Obama’s first year in office, the unemployment rate peaked at 10% in October 2009.
The most striking bright spot in Friday’s report was wage growth. After remaining stubbornly stagnant, average hourly earnings rose 2.5% — the best gain since 2009.
Economic analysts warn against making sweeping conclusions about the health of the economy based on one jobs report. But the surprisingly robust jobs growth and wage gains in October are undoubtedly welcome news for Democrats — particularly the party’s eventual nominee for president. Clinton has a wide lead in polls of Democratic primary voters.
For Republicans, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make their case against the Obama economy.
“This is a very good report. And it’s not just the headline number but the fact that average hourly earnings are up,” said Gus Faucher, a PNC senior economist. “If I were a Democrat I would be making a lot of hay out of it.”
For the majority of Obama’s time in office, Republicans have sought to blame his administration for lackluster economic growth. Turning around the economy was one of the main promises that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney made in the 2012 cycle, as he touted his experience in the private sector.
In their push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have also argued that the president’s landmark healthcare law is a drag on the jobs market and the economy.
“It becomes awfully hard for Republicans to bash the president about the economy in general or about the so-called job killer Obamacare in particular on the heels of not just this month’s report, but the gradual improvement in the job market,” said Jared Bernstein, a former top chief economics adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. “And if the wage improvement story sticks, and I kind of think it might, that takes very important argument off the table.”