Romney's 500,000 Jobs a Month Is a Pipe Dream

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Mitt Romney's claim that the country should be adding 500,000 jobs a month isn't possible.

The presumed Republican presidential nominee Friday told Fox News' Gretchen Carlson that the economy should be growing at more than 500,000 jobs a month, but strategists don't appear to have much faith in the former businessman's forecast.

"Come on ... 500,000 a month, that's a pipe dream," said Josh Feinman, global chief economist for Deutsche Bank Advisors. "That's not sustainable ... but it does underscore the problem."

The problem is that the country still has to restore about 5 million jobs lost because of the recession.

Feinman said the United States lost an estimated 8.8 million jobs from the peak to the trough of the Great Recession, and the country has restored about 3.8 million of those positions. Feinman said that if nonfarm payrolls grew at 200,000 a month that Americans would attain all those lost jobs in about two years.

But that doesn't factor in growth of the population that has come of age to enter the work force.

Feinman said he thinks the country is about 10 million (or double the 5 million short of reaching pre-recession levels) jobs short, which would take us another six or seven years at a 200,000 per-month clip to replace what the country lost.

April nonfarm payrolls grew by just 115,000, well below economists' consensus of 162,000, but March revisions rose to 155,000 and sent unemployment down to 8.1% from 8.2%.

Rarely has the United States added 500,000 jobs a month since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began to collect nonfarm payroll numbers, and it's not a number that appears to be in the mind of strategists.

"What we'll probably start to see is the labor market going back to job growth of about 170,000, maybe 200,000 over the latter part of the spring, early summer," said Michael Strauss, chief investment strategist at Commonfund. "It used to be, 10 years ago, you needed 150,000 jobs to hold the unemployment rate steady; today you probably only need 75,000 jobs a month, because baby boomers are starting to leave the system."

Beyond Romney's comment that the U.S. should be adding half a million jobs per month, he also called Friday's report terrible and very disappointing. But real worry, six months ahead of the American presidential election, may be more focused on Sunday's French run-off between Socialist Party candidate François Hollande and incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"I think this employment report indicates that people can kind of take their eyes off the U.S., that things aren't extremely great here, but they're certainly not falling off a cliff or anything like that. So Europe is still going to be a major driver in the markets as it has been for the past, seemingly, forever," said Brad Sorensen, market and sector research director at Charles Schwab.

The Obama administration still faces the reality that 8% unemployment is historically high, and spun its own rhetoric Friday after the report.

" Since August the unemployment rate has fallen by 1.0 percentage point, from 9.1% to 8.1%," Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, wrote in a statement. "As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile."

Krueger singled out the manufacturing sector as a bright spot after the recession, thanks to 489,000 jobs added since January 2010. But as previously noted, Obama has avoided detailing some explanations about why manufacturing data has been so positive since 2010.

Romney's 500,000 number appears to be your typical exaggerated political rhetoric, but Obama must continue to hope to avoid one or two truly disastrous monthly employment reports before he can claim re-election.

"If the unemployment rate is down around 7.8%, 7.9% in November, which it will likely be, Obama's chances of winning increase; if it's north of 8.25%, Romney's chances of winning would increase," said Strauss.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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