By Matt McDonald, (202) 822-1205,ᅠ

“Zero jobs growth.” Whatever the underlying numbers, the headline is a powerful one. The jobs report this month gives voice in data to the concern that we risk a double-dip recession and that the economy is now at stall speed.

This latest report sets a high-stakes table for the President’s joint address to Congress next week, and incrementally raises the pressure for further action by the Federal Reserve.

Scratching the surface, there is some good news to be had.ᅠ In the household survey, we actually saw 331,000 new jobs, and perhaps even better than that, we saw 366,000 new entrants to the workforce, the highest number this year.

As this household survey drives the unemployment rate, the benchmark for the President to reach 8 percent by Election Day is essentially unchanged. The benchmark for the unemployment rate to get below 8 percent by Election Day was 272,000 jobs per month going into today’s report (see the memo).ᅠ After today’s report, that benchmark is 270,000 jobs per month needed going forward. Likewise, to get below a more modest 8.5 percent unemployment by Election Day 2012 would require the creation of 215,000 jobs on a monthly basis going forward, again slightly down from 220,000 going into today’s report.

Matt McDonald is a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies and a veteran of two Presidential campaigns and the White House.ᅠ Prior to joining HPS, Matt worked for McKinsey and Company. ᅠHe holds an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and an undergraduate degree in economics from Dartmouth College.