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Jobs Numbers May Boost Obama Re-election Effort


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour with fresh evidence that the U.S. economy is on the mend. The unemployment rate fell unexpectedly last month to 8.3 percent. And according to the Labor Department, U.S. employers added nearly a quarter million workers to their payrolls. As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, it's not only good news for the economy and the nation, it's also good news for President Obama and his re-election campaign.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Unemployment hasn't been this low since the first few weeks that President Obama was in office. Mr. Obama notes private employers have added 3.7 million workers to their payrolls over the last two years and January's hiring was the strongest in nine months.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The recovery is speeding up and we've got to do everything in our power to keep it going.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama urged lawmakers to quickly extend the payroll tax cut, as well as long-term unemployment insurance. The president has been highlighting the importance of U.S. manufacturing, which added 50,000 jobs last month. Eric Hague runs an ArcelorMittal facility in Cleveland that makes steel for the auto and appliance industries. He's in the process of restarting that company's Westside plant, which was shut down when demand dried up in 2008.

Customers are now clamoring for steel and Hague is hiring about 150 new workers.

ERIC HAGUE: Both hourly and salary jobs that pay in excess of probably $60,000 a year right now. So, all positive for the community and certainly a lot of excitement.

HORSLEY: Political forecaster Stuart Rothenberg says the better than expected jobs report is also a positive for President Obama.

STUART ROTHENBERG: Right now, the administration and its supporters are going to be able to talk about a positive change that's not just one month, that's now a series of months. And so, they're going to be able to build this argument which, of course, if it carries all the way to November, would be a huge boost for the president.

HORSLEY: Rothenberg points out, though, both the economy and the political picture remain volatile. At this time last year, many people thought we were on the cusp of a strong recovery only to see it derailed.

ROTHENBERG: We're still a long way from knowing exactly how the president is going to be standing when we hit that crucial period as September, October. That's when people will decide whether Barack Obama deserves another four years.

HORSLEY: Republicans, for their part, are arguing the recovery would be even stronger if Mr. Obama were not president. Scott Horsley NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.