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First Thoughts: The rough economic news continues

The rough economic news continues: Employers added just 54,000 jobs in May, the fewest in eight months, while the unemployment rate increased to 9.1%... Genuine economic concern at the White House… But it’s optimistic about the state of the auto industry, and Obama delivers remarks at the Chrysler Group’s Supplier Park in Toledo, OH at 1:25 pm ET… Congress turns its attention to Libya… Romney’s good and bad day yesterday… GOP presidential hopefuls address the Faith and Freedom confab in DC… Why Gingrich won’t be there: He’s on vacation… Huntsman spends his afternoon/evening in New Hampshire… John Edwards likely to be indicted… And farewell to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie!

*** The rough economic news continues: It was about a year ago when a combination of the Greek debt crisis and the BP spill sent the jobs market in a tailspin. In May 2010, fueled largely by U.S. Census hires, the economy gained more than 450,000 jobs. Then the next month, it lost nearly 200,000. Is something similar taking place this summer -- after high gas prices, the disaster in Japan, and more instability in Europe? The latest jobs report shows that the economy added just 54,000 jobs in May, the fewest in eight months, the AP says. (Private employers added 83,000 new workers, while local governments cut 28,000 jobs.) What’s more, the unemployment rate ticked up from 9.0% to 9.1%. 

*** Genuine economic concern at the White House: There's genuine concern at the White House about the economy, and it's not just because of the round of bad data circulating this week. Rather, it's from the stagnant data over the past six weeks. The top-three areas of concern from their view: 1) gas prices and the effect its having on consumer spending; 2) the European debt crisis, and 3) the political stalemate here over the debt ceiling. However, there’s optimism about the rest of the year -- due to Japan’s recovery efforts, business investment is still on the rise, and exports have been improving. Even under the guise of "worst case scenario," the phrase "double dip" isn't being uttered around the West Wing. The real fear is something akin to Japan in the '90s -- flat or stagnant growth leading to few jobs created over a number of years, in other words, "a jobless recovery."

*** But optimism about the state of the U.S. auto industry: Some good economic news that the Obama administration wants to highlight is in the auto industry, and that’s why the president today delivers remarks at 1:25 pm ET at the Chrysler Group’s Supplier Park in Toledo, OH. Here’s the news Obama will discuss: “Italian automaker Fiat SpA agreed late Thursday to acquire the U.S. Treasury's stake in Chrysler Group LLC for $560 million, ending the Obama administration's involvement with the Auburn Hills automaker,” the Detroit News reports. “The U.S. exit ends a 30-month involvement of two administrations in saving the company from collapse, beginning with the Bush administration's decision to bail out Chrysler with $4 billion in December 2008.”

*** Congress turns its attention to Libya: The White House also has to worry about congressional attitudes about Libya. Per the New York Times, the House will vote on “two measures that are strongly critical of President Obama’s decision to maintain an American role in NATO operations in Libya.” One resolution, sponsored by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, would direct the president to end the United States’ limited involvement in Libya in the next two weeks. The other resolution -- introduced by GOP leaders fearful that Kucinich’s measure would pass and would send the wrong message -- states that the White House has not received congressional authorization for the use of force in Libya and it asserts that Obama must provide Congress information about the mission there within 14 days. A question to ponder: Is this real war fatigue that's been building over a decade, or is this a case -- among Republicans -- if Obama's for it, it's easier to be against it?

*** Romney’s good and bad day: If he’s going to be the eventual Republican nominee, then Mitt Romney had a good day yesterday. He was on message with the big story of the day: the U.S. economy. But it also was a bad day in his attempt to get the GOP nomination. Sarah Palin, in Massachusetts of all places, took a shot at Romney’s health-care law. "In my opinion, any mandate coming from government is not a good thing,” she said from famous Bunker Hill. Rudy Giuliani, who’s mulling a presidential bid, also piled on. “The reality is that Obamacare and Romneycare are almost exactly the same, it’s not very helpful trying to distinguish them,” Giuliani said while in New Hampshire. Since your authors have been covering presidential politics, we can’t remember a time when high-profile members of a political party took a shot at their own on his/her announcement day. In fact, the 2008 vice-presidential nominee (Palin) tried to kneecap the party’s 2012 front-runner. Truly stunning.

*** Gotta have faith (and freedom): Several GOP presidential candidates and other high-profile Republicans speak in DC at the Faith and Freedom Conference, organized by former Christian Coalition head (and Abramoff business associate) Ralph Reed. Slated to speak: Paul Ryan (9:37 am ET), Michele Bachmann (10:00 am), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (10:15 am), John Boehner (11:27 am), Jon Huntsman (11:42 am), RNC Chair Reince Priebus (11:57 am), and then in the evening it’s Donald Trump (7:35 pm), Tim Pawlenty (8:48 pm), and Mitt Romney (9:13 pm). Notably, skipping the event: Newt Gingrich, who will send a video message instead.

*** Vacation … all I ever wanted: So where is Gingrich, who’s been especially quiet over the past several days? Well, he and his wife Callista are on vacation, per spokesman Rick Tyler. The couple always "planned to take this time" when they looked at the calendar, Tyler said. "This fits the schedule." Gingrich will be back on the trail June 8 in New Hampshire. He's doing a Republican Jewish Coalition event June 12 in Los Angeles, and then is doing the CNN debate June 13.

*** On the 2012 trail: In addition to his remarks at the Faith and Freedom Conference in DC, Huntsman heads to New Hampshire later today, where he delivers keynote speech at Belknap County GOP Committee's Annual "Lincoln Day" Dinner.

*** Edwards likely to be indicted today: Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is likely to be charged today over “the money used to keep his mistress in hiding during the 2008 campaign,” the AP reports. “A person with knowledge of the investigation said Edwards' attorney, Gregory Craig, planned to be in his client's home state Friday. Prosecutors are prepared to file charges, and the sides are still in discussions for a plea deal, so it's unclear whether Edwards will be indicted or agree to a negotiated charge.” NBC’s Lisa Myers reported on “TODAY” this morning that sources say he will reject the plea agreement and will be indicted.

*** Farewell to Savannah Guthrie: Finally, today is NBC’s Savannah’s Guthrie last day in the Washington bureau and as co-host on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.” She is headed to work full time on the “TODAY” show in New York. Savannah is a great colleague, friend, and contributor to First Read, and we’ll miss her. We wish her the best of luck in New York! Be sure to tune into today's “Daily Rundown” for some farewells and even a few surprises.

Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 71 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 102 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 158 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 248 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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