In evaluating the new jobs and unemployment numbers, it's important to remember that jobs and unemployment are not the same thing. Often, the unemployment rate falls when discouraged workers just give up looking for work. But that's not what these numbers reflect:
The unemployment rate fell by 0.3 percentage points in September to 7.8 percent, the lowest level since January of 2009. The drop was driven by an 873,000 reported increase in employment. The employment to population ratio rose to 58.7 percent, its highest rate since May of 2010. While the establishment survey showed just 114,000 new jobs for the month, the prior two months’ numbers were revised upwardby a total of 86,000. This brings the average rate of job growth over the last three months to 146,000.
[...] The percentage of unemployment due to quitters rose to 7.9 percent, the second highest level since the end of 2008. The number of discouraged workers also fell sharply from 1,032,000 to 802,000.
As Charles has already mentioned, the conspiracy theorists on the right are already accusing the administration of cooking the books, but these initial reports are always preliminary, and the subsequent revisions are always more accurate. Both the August and July numbers have been revised sharply upwards, suggesting that the economy has been doing a little better than these reports had been indicating. That may help explain why consumer confidence has been steadily rising, defying the expectations of economists.
Conspiracy theories aside, jobs numbers don't drive consumer confidence. Actual jobs do.
All that said, Republicans can find solace in the factoid that no president since FDR has won reelection with an unemployment rate above 7.2 percent. But then, that was in the midst of the Great Depression, so perhaps the Great Recession gives President Obama a similar cushion?
Around six weeks ago and particularly after the conventions, both campaigns started noticing that public perceptions of the economy were on the upswing. But neither campaign had a clear sense of why that was happening.
[...] Politically, we’ve been operating on the assumption that the economy got into gear last winter and then slumped back into anemic jobs growth in the spring. But it seems like on the ground that may not actually have happened. So if we wonder why Obama’s numbers have resisted the anemic jobs reality, it seems like we may have had an incorrect picture of what that reality was.