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Updated Feb 2, 2024, 5:52pm EST
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Semafor Signals

The US labor market just saw a huge surge, but will it get through to voters?

Insights from CNN, Newsweek, Financial Times, and Semafor

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REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
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The News

The U.S. economy defied expectations once again Friday, with the labor market recording a strong increase of 353,000 jobs in January.

The data indicates that 2023 was the best year for job growth since 1999 – excluding the two years prior, when the economy was recovering from the pandemic, one economics reporter noted on X.

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Most of the job gains were in industries such as healthcare, social assistance, and government, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, with average hourly earnings up by 0.6% this past month — double the monthly estimate.

Speaking to reporters Friday, U.S. President Joe Biden said the latest figures show that “America’s economy is the strongest in the world,” and noted that the U.S. had added almost 15 million jobs since he was sworn in as president in January 2021.

“I won’t stop fighting to lower costs and build an economy from the middle out and bottom-up,” he said.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

American voters are still skeptical about Bidenomics — but this could change

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Sources:  
CNN, Newsweek, Financial Times

Though recent figures show the economy doing better than forecast, a majority of American voters surveyed in one CNN poll believe the economy is still in a downturn, while 63% disapprove of President Biden’s handling of the situation. “That could be a big problem for Democrats trying to peddle Bidenomics,” a CNN analysis stated. Recent figures suggest Bidenomics appears to be working, Newsweek reported, with inflation easing from the 40-year high reached in 2022, and stronger economic conditions in six battleground states that had been hit especially hard by high unemployment and gas prices. Consumer sentiment lags behind data by up to a year, Financial Times columnist Rana Foroohar wrote, but a leading index that measures consumer sentiment has risen in the past two months, while expectations of future inflation have softened.

The economy isn’t ‘Goldilocks’ – it’s more complex than that

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Sources:  
The New York Times, Semafor's Washington Editor Jordan Weissmann

“This is arguably the best economy we’ve had since the late 1990s,” wrote New York Times opinion columnist Paul Krugman, challenging critics’ claims that Biden’s earlier spending on progressive policies yielded disastrous consequences.

While some have called the current economy a “Goldilocks” scenario – growth that is neither too hot nor too cold, but, like the famous porridge, just right – Krugman disagreed, saying “we have an economy that is both piping hot (in terms of growth and job creation) and refreshingly cool (in terms of inflation).”

The post-pandemic inflation burst was in line with that experienced by other developed countries and in other ways America has “greatly outperformed its peers”, he argued – while acknowledging that “hyperpartisanship” means this is unlikely to have a big impact on voters. Other experts have also echoed Krugman’s remarks. “I think the economy is pretty good right now,” Semafor’s Washington Editor Jordan Weissmann posted on X. “We’ve added 289,000 new jobs, on average, over each of the last three months. And our GDP is the strongest in the G7.”

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