Weekly jobless claims in the U.S. fell by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000 in the week ended Feb. 11, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the lowest level since March 2008, when the U.S. was in the early stages of a recession. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch estimated claims would total 368,000. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 361,000 from 358,000. The four-week average of claims, meanwhile, fell by a smaller 1,750 to 365,250, keeping it near a four-year low.
"In terms of metrics, keep in mind, when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. When the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly," explains Steve Benen. "We've now dropped below 370,000 for two consecutive weeks, and three of the last five weeks." He also helpfully supplies a chart of what this drop looks like:
So much for the "failed stimulus" line. It wasn't big enough to turn things around quickly, but it was big enough to turn things around. Betting against America turned out to be a lousy wager and now Republicans are taking a bath.
This goes a long way toward explaining why Republicans are waging a war on contraception right now -- they literally have nothing else to talk about. But a piece in the New York Times explains another reason; while polling shows the issue is a loser, Republicans are gambling that it'll be important enough to the base to get them to the polls. Low turnout in most of the GOP primaries shows a voter block exceptionally unenthused about Republican candidates. If they don't turn out, Obama wins in a walk.
Conservative evangelical groups, even though most do not oppose contraception on theological grounds, have taken up the cause with equal force [to Catholic Bishops]. Their leaders argue that a government mandate forcing any religious group to act against its beliefs is a threat to all religions. Major evangelical groups that openly opposed Mr. Obama and his health care plan in the past see this as a new affront and a new opportunity for attack.
The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents thousands of churches in 40 denominations, “will be working vigorously” against the mandate, said Galen Carey, the association’s vice president for government relations — lending substance to the statement last week by Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Baptist minister, that “we are all Catholics now.”
Evangelical leaders say they would be outraged by the mandate in any case, but many also believe that it will bring them political gains. [Ralph] Reed, the conservative strategist, said that even if a majority of Americans expressed general support for requiring contraceptive coverage — and even if, as he believes, the economy remained the primary issue — getting conservative and religious voters more fired up could make a difference.
"Among key voter groups in key battleground states, this issue in combination with others is not going to be helpful to Obama," Reed told the Times. Personally, I think he's radically overstating his case -- most of the people who'd vote against this issue wouldn't vote for Obama anyway. Republicans won't get more voters with this and they need more voters.
I think what this shows is Republican panic over good economic news and low primary turnout. This was supposed to be a gimme and it's all going horribly, horribly wrong. Obama's leading every GOP candidate and the entirely unelectable Rick Santorum is leading the barely electable Mitt Romney. This could turn into a bloodbath. Something -- anything -- must be done to turn this all around.
I don't think this is going to do it. The numbers just aren't there.
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