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Romney: I'll get unemployment down to 6%

May 23, 2012: 3:22 PM ET

Mitt Romney told our friends at TIME on Wednesday that he will get the unemployment rate to 6% by the end of his first term. (CNNMoney and TIME are both owned by Time Warner.)

"Over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we put in place, we'd get the unemployment rate down to 6%, and perhaps a little lower," Romney said. "It depends in part upon the rate of growth of the globe, as well as what we're seeing here in the United States. But we'd get the rate down quite substantially."

Campaigns are for making promises, so let's take a look at what this one means.

First, a little background on how all this works: The unemployment rate measures the percent of the labor force that is unemployed.

The unemployed are individuals who have actively looked for work over the previous four weeks. Looking for work can mean having a job interview, sending out resumes, or even something as simple as calling friends or relatives in hopes of finding a job.

The number of unemployed is then divided by the total labor force. The resulting number is the unemployment rate -- which is currently 8.1%.

Right now, the portion of the working-age population participating in the job market -- the labor force participation rate -- is at its lowest level since 1981: 63.6%.

So if Romney is promising 6% by the end of his first term, how many jobs per month would that mean?

The Atlanta Fed has a handy calculator to help with this. Assuming the labor force participation rate holds at 63.6%, the economy would only need to add 155,339 jobs per month for the unemployment rate to drop to 6% by 2016.

That's not very many jobs. For comparison, the economy has, since the beginning of 2011, averaged 165,000 new jobs per month -- a rather tepid rate of growth.

Now, the size of the labor force can change right along with the number of unemployed. And as the labor force swells, so does the number of new jobs necessary to drop the unemployment rate.

Should the labor force participation rate increase, which is likely to happen as discouraged workers return to the labor force, Romney's task gets harder.

If the labor force participation rate jumps to 65.0%, Romney would have to add 211,034 jobs per month, which would be indicative of stronger recovery.

And should theĀ  labor force participation rate return to its pre-recession level of 66.0%, Romney would need 250,816 jobs per month to make good on his promise.

For more fun with numbers, click here for the Atlanta Fed's calculator.

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About This Author
Charles Riley
Charles Riley
Reporter, CNNMoney

Charles Riley lives and works in Hong Kong, where he covers markets, economics and other high-impact stories across Asia. He previously worked for CNNMoney in New York and CNN in Washington. He tweets @CRrileyCNN

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