The Romney campaign continued Friday to hammer President Obama for his stewardship of the economy, noting that in Florida, unemployment increased from 8.6 to 8.8 percent in July. But the issue cuts both ways. In New Jersey, unemployment rose to a 35-year high, making GOP Gov. Chris Christie a subject of renewed attacks from his Democratic rivals.
In hotly contested Virginia, the unemployment rate rose from 5.7 to 5.9 percent, the second straight month in which there was an increase. The state, however, added 21,300 jobs, many from the financial services and leisure and hospitality industries.
Ann D. Lang, senior economist at the Virginia Employment Commission, said the state still has the 10th-lowest unemployment rate in the nation. She noted that last summer, the rate also briefly increased before resuming its downward trend.
Only the District of Columbia, Idaho and Rhode Island reported lower unemployment rates. In the District, the unemployment rate dipped to 8.9 percent, the lowest since February 2009, when the rate was 8.7 percent.
Embattled D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said city initiatives were responsible for the improvement. But James Bohnaker, an associate economist at Moody’s Analytics, said the job growth came from hospital systems making a push to boost their presence in Washington.
The Maryland unemployment rate rose from 6.9 to 7 percent, though the state also added 800 jobs, the first time that number was positive since the beginning of 2012.
Although candidates of both parties are using the state figures to shape voters’ perceptions of the economy, many analysts question the importance of the numbers. They say it is hard to draw any conclusions from the new data and that many states cited for higher unemployment rates are adding jobs.
The national unemployment rate has long been viewed by Republicans as their silver bullet in the 2012 election. No president in modern times has been reelected with unemployment over 8 percent, and the rate stands at 8.3 percent.
But as states have fought to get back on their feet, the governors running for reelection have sought to emphasize how much progress they have made. More than half of the governors are Republicans and many of them are running the country’s swing states, leading to some mixed messaging from the GOP.
In Florida and Virginia, for example, Republicans have run ads pointing to economic progress under Govs. Rick Scott (R) and Robert F. McDonnell (R), respectively. The Romney campaign and national groups, meanwhile, are saying in their ads that Obama has a poor economic record in those states.