AP: Unemployment will "challenge Obama's narrative" on economy

The Associated Press notes that Barack Obama’s tour to bolster support for his economic policies will have to overcome a great deal of skepticism from a public that hasn’t seen any improvement, especially on unemployment.  However, the AP wants to help, and provides a little bit of spin to make the case that voters are being too hard on the White House:

Even as he touts his efforts to put more Americans to work, President Barack Obama faces a public increasingly skeptical of his ability to bring jobs back to Main Street.

During stops in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, Obama will try to convince voters that his economic policies are working, despite an unemployment rate that’s expected to remain at painfully high levels for months if not years.

Those voters – many of them crucial independents – will be key to Obama’s re-election prospects in 2012. And his fellow Democrats, facing a tough political climate in the November, need their support even sooner.

None of that is exactly a surprise. The unemployment figures present Democrats with a serious dilemma. How do they insist on spending more money on stimulus bills when their first, massive stimulus didn’t do any good at all? The White House keeps claiming to have saved or created millions of jobs, but the people aren’t seeing that at all, and for that matter, neither are the businesses that would have hired (or not laid off) those workers:

The recovery is picking up steam as employers boost payrolls, but economists think the government’s stimulus package and jobs bill had little to do with the rebound, according to a survey released Monday.

In latest quarterly survey by the National Association for Business Economics, the index that measures employment showed job growth for the first time in two years — but a majority of respondents felt the fiscal stimulus had no impact.

NABE conducted the study by polling 68 of its members who work in economic roles at private-sector firms. About 73% of those surveyed said employment at their company is neither higher nor lower as a result of the $787 billion Recovery Act, which the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers says is on track to create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year.

That sentiment is shared for the recently passed $17.7 billion jobs bill that calls for tax breaks for businesses that hire and additional infrastructure spending. More than two-thirds of those polled believe the measure won’t affect payrolls, while 30% expect it to boost hiring “moderately.”

The AP follows CNN’s lead in the “boost payrolls” meme for a little spin (emphasis mine):

The latest economic forecasts do show signs of progress: The nation added jobs at the fastest pace in three years last month; the manufacturing industry is growing at a steady pace; and new claims for jobless benefits have declined.

We didn’t “add jobs”, at least not in net numbers, in March or any other time over the past two years. Much of the hiring in March came from Census Bureau hiring and other government temp jobs. The economy has to add over 100,000 permanent jobs a month just to break even with a growing population.

Nor have new claims for jobless benefits declined in any significant way in 2010. In fact, that number has remained flat, well above the 325,000 floor that indicates job growth, as this chart from Department of Labor data demonstrates:

The green line denotes seasonally-adjusted initial jobless claims, and the black trendline is keyed to that calculation.  It demonstrates that new jobless claims numbers have been remarkably consistent, and remarkably high, all year.  They’re certainly better than last year’s numbers, but those jobs are still lost, as we have not yet begun net job creation.   Whatever decline took place happened more than six months ago, and we’ve been flatlined at this level ever since.

The administration has a credibility problem on unemployment, one that can only be solved by a burst of economic growth that Obama’s policies have been choking for more than a year.  The media also has some credibility issues on unemployment and economics.