Playing with the unemployment numbers

Job seekers pick up open job fliers from potential employers at at a career fair in Los Angeles, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: Politicians spent their morning trying their best to find a silver lining in the jobs numbers. Not in an all-that-constructive way, though.

Leaders from both sides of the aisle want to use it to support their case in the debt ceiling debate. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports they're having varying degrees of success.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: The White House insists it's above stirring the jobs numbers into the messy debate on the debt ceiling. Here's White House economist Austan Goolsbee earlier today on the Marketplace Morning Report.

Austan Goolsbee: We shouldn't be using data as a leverage point for negotiations.

But then President Obama did just that, saying the numbers demand an immediate deal to get the economy rolling again and get Americans to work.

Barack Obama: Now the American people sent us here to do the right thing, not for party, but for country. So we're going to work together to get things done on their behalf.

The president used the phrase "right now" 10 times during his speech.

Larry Sabato teaches political science at the University of Virginia. He says the urgency is meant to scare negotiators into action.

Larry Sabato: You want to create a sense of crisis. You have to do that to get anything done in Washington.

Sabato says Democrats are also using the jobs numbers to argue against spending cuts. Republicans say the numbers strengthen their stance against taxes. Just listen to House Speaker John Boehner.

John Boehner: Tax hikes on families and job creators will only make things worse.

Boehner and other Republicans say more taxes would make it harder for employers to hire.

Steve East is chief economist at Height Analytics, which monitors Washington for Wall Street. He says Republicans' jabs on jobs pack a lot of punch.

Steve East: The Republicans can use this bad jobs report to score political points better than the Democrats can because the bad jobs report happened under the watch of a Democratic administration.

East says rightly or wrongly, the president will be blamed for today's dismal numbers -- and that weakens his hand.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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