WASHINGTON — The September jobs report that arrives today, a month before the presidential election, likely will sketch a dual picture: The job market continues to heal. Yet it's far from full health.
No incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt has faced re-election with unemployment so high. The rate was 8.1 percent in August, up from 7.8 percent when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. Economists predict that the rate reached 8.2 percent in September, according to a survey by FactSet.
It would be the 44th-straight month in which unemployment has topped 8 percent. Still, the job market has been improving, sluggishly but steadily. Jobs have been added for 23-straight months. There are now 125,000 more than when Obama took office.
Economists predict 111,000 more were added in September.
The administration's defenders argue that Obama shouldn't be held accountable for job losses early in his term.
When he became president amid the Great Recession, the job market was collapsing.
In January 2009, the economy lost 818,000 jobs, the grimmest showing since 1949. In the first four months of his presidency, 3 million jobs vanished. Obama's economic prescriptions, particularly an $862 billion stimulus plan, didn't kick in until months after his inauguration.
Since bottoming out in February 2010, the economy has added about 4.4 million jobs. And private companies have added more than 5 million — a figure the White House likes to emphasize.
But job gains in the private sector have been partly blunted by layoffs by state and local governments.
And as voters prepare to decide whether to back Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, many of the job market's vital signs are faint: