NEW YORK (
) -- An improving jobs picture can only help President Barack Obama's re-election run, so Friday's dip in the unemployment rate is a big positive for the incumbent.
The federal government said the
U.S. unemployment rate
fell to 8.6% in November, dipping below 9% for the first time since March 2009. The economy created 120,000 jobs for the month, slightly below the consensus view.
Of course, the November 2012 election won't have voters looking back to what happened a year ago, and others will bring attention to the fact that
315,000 people dropped from the workforce
, but it's hard to argue that the latest signs of improving conditions for job seekers doesn't help Obama's case.
"The number that a Democrat incumbent needs to be the most focused on is the unemployment number," said Billy Vassiliadis, CEO of R&R Partners. "If this number gets to 12, 13, 14, 15 ... or even if it begins to head north again, and I mean not a 0.01%, but it literally goes up one or two points, I think that is going to be real problematic. The president's re-election chances are going to be enhanced or diminished by the next 10 months of looking for some economic hope."
Of course, Obama can't build his presidential campaign on unemployment numbers because consumer confidence, European sovereign debt and a bag of other economic and financial indicators will determine America's fate in 2012, but Friday's data looks like a strong first step.
In fact, GOP candidates seemed uncertain as to how to respond to the number. The typical political rhetoric after 9%-plus unemployment reports has been to blame Obama for the stagnation in the employment picture.
"Today's 8.6 percent unemployment number gives the appearance that the jobs situation is improving, and while I'm sure the president will attempt to take credit for it, unfortunately he won't explain that the lower numbers are being propped up by huge numbers of Americans dropping out and giving up on trying to find a job," Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) said in a statement.
"Today's unemployment figures bring to 34 the number of months that unemployment in the United States has been over 8 percent, the longest such spell since the Great Depression," Romney said in a statement Friday.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain didn't release statement on their Web sites about the November jobs report.
--Written by Joe Deaux in New York.
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