TOPEKA, Kan. — This morning’s jobs report was only a token sign of progress for the economy, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) said at a campaign event here Friday.

Speaking to a crowd of several hundred supporters at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, Paul contended that the actual unemployment rate is much higher than today’s report would suggest.

“You know what the unemployment rate really is? It’s probably closer to 20 percent,” Paul said to a cheering crowd at his first of three Kansas events Friday. “Today they were talking about the good news reports, but they’re very, very token.”

This morning’s report showed that in February, the economy added 227,000 jobs — a bit of welcome news for the Obama administration — and that the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.3 percent.

Paul has long argued that the unemployment figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are inaccurate and that the country has actually been in a depression for the past decade.

“If you want to really know why the American people feel badly about the economy, it’s that the unemployment rate is escalating. It’s very high,” he said. “But if you take ... the number of people employed, 132 million people, it’s the same number that was employed in the year 2000. There have been no new jobs produced.”

Both Paul and former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) are campaigning hard in Kansas ahead of tomorrow’s GOP presidential caucuses. Santorum holds an event at 2:30 p.m. down the street from where Paul addressed supporters in Topeka, and the two candidates are also holding events in Wichita later Friday.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R), who had originally endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) presidential bid but who is now neutral in the race, sat in the second row at Paul’s Topeka event to listen to the candidate; he is also expected to attend Santorum’s event Friday afternoon.