Last jobs report before election  shows economy in ‘virtual standstill’

Published November 02, 2012

  • jobfair_ny_102512.jpg

    Oct. 25, 2012: A sign attracts job-seekers during a job fair at the Marriott  Hotel in Colonie, N.Y. (AP)

The final monthly jobs report before Election Day offered a mixed bag of  economic evidence that quickly became political putty for the presidential  candidates, with the unemployment rate ticking up to 7.9 percent but the economy  adding a better-than-expected 171,000 jobs.

At the same time, the number of unemployed grew by 170,000, roughly the same  amount — to 12.3 million.

The October numbers allow President Obama to argue the economy is technically  growing under his watch. But they also allow Mitt Romney to argue that the new  jobs are not making much of a dent in the unemployment problem. Both  campaigns quickly set to work putting their spin on data that, if nothing else,  underscores the slow pace of the recovery.

“Today’s increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy  is at a virtual standstill,” Romney said in a statement. “The jobless rate is  higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23  million Americans struggling for work. … When I’m president, I’m going to make  real changes that lead to a real recovery, so that the next four years are  better than the last.”

Former Bureau of Labor Statistics chief Keith Hall told Fox Business Network  that at this rate, “we’re still talking nine or 10 years” before the economy  gets back to normal.

But Obama, speaking in Hilliard, Ohio, pointed to the report as another sign  the economy is moving in the right direction, despite the challenges  remaining.

“We’ve made real progress, but we are here today because we know we’ve got  more work to do,” Obama said. “As long as there’s a single American who wants a  job and can’t find one, as long as there are families working harder but falling  behind … our fight goes on.”

Alan B. Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers,  said “today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy  is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the  Great Depression.”

The numbers stand as the last major economic report before Election Day,  capping what has effectively been a two-year campaign focused largely on jobs —  or the lack of jobs.

The prior September jobs report came as a surprise, showing the unemployment  rate dropping to 7.8 percent, dipping below 8 percent for the first time since  Obama took office. However, economists on both sides of the aisle  questioned the accuracy of the number, and Republicans continued to claim that  job growth is not nearly where it needs to be.

The October report showed the rate ticking up in part because more people  were joining the workforce. The report reflected growth across a number of  sectors, including health care and retail and construction. Mining, though, lost  9,000 jobs last month. And average hourly earnings dropped by a penny, to  $23.58.

Obama has said all along that there’s more work to do, but has argued that  electing Romney would turn back the clock on the recovery.

Still, the president said shortly after taking office that failing to right  the economy in three years would mean a “one-term proposition.”

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a top Romney surrogate, reminded voters that the 7.9  percent rate is far higher than what the administration initially  predicted.

“He promised sweeping reforms that would boost our hurting economy, including  a trillion dollar stimulus package that would reduce unemployment to 5.4 percent  and policies to reduce the deficit in half by now,” he said.

Romney has called for a new course, and has described the president as out of  ideas. On Thursday, he repeatedly mocked Obama for proposing a so-called  Department of Business.

“I just don’t think another Cabinet chair is going to create the jobs that  America needs,” Romney said in Doswell, Va., part of a daylong swing through the  battleground state.

Romney plans to hit rallies in both Wisconsin and Ohio on Friday. Obama will  attend three campaign events in Ohio.

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