Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday threw out an ambitious target for employment growth — 4% unemployment, and 500,000 nonfarm jobs a month. The U.S. created 115,000 jobs in April.
How rare is it for 500,000 jobs to be created in a month? The last time was in May 2010 — when the U.S. hired thousands of workers to conduct the Census. (The next month, payrolls shrunk by 167,000.)
Lest Romneyites think that only President Barack Obama struggled to make that grade, neither President Bush, older or younger, saw job creation that strong. President Clinton had one-plus 500,000 month, when in September, 1997, 507,000 positions were created. (Aided by the return of striking UPS workers.) President Reagan enjoyed a spectacular 1.11 million-job month in September 1983, but that was the only plus-500K mark and was boosted by roughly 640,000 AT&T workers returning from a strike.
In fact, the last president to achieve back-to-back 500,000-plus months of job creation was one Romney recently mocked — Jimmy Carter — who saw 513,000 jobs created in March 1978 and 702,000 jobs added the next month. Those months reflected workers coming back from a coal strike.
Sub-4% unemployment also is a rarity, one that wasn’t achieved by Kennedy, Ford, Carter, Reagan, both Bushes and Obama.
On the brighter side, job growth was revised modestly higher for both March and February. The increase in employment in March was revised up to 154,000 from an initial reading of 120,000. And the gain in February was revised up to 259,000 from 240,000.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average fell by more than 150 points and oil prices dropped below $100 a barrel.
Most economists believe the U.S. is on a track to add an average of 150,000 to 200,000 jobs a month in 2012, consistent with a national growth rate of about 2% or slightly faster. They believe hiring will spring back in a few months after the recent lull, which would be good news for the President and his chances of reelection.