The last Labor Department jobs report before the election showed a slight uptick in the unemployment rate — giving both President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney fodder to claim that their policies to rebuild the economy would be better than those of their opponent.
The joblessness rate rose to 7.9 percent in October, up 0.1 percent from September. The rise was attributed to more people resuming their search for work. The Labor Department counts only those who have jobs or who are looking for jobs as part of the workforce. The proportion of the population that has a job rose 0.1 percent to 58.8 percent, and U.S. employers added 171,000 new jobs in October.
Both candidates took to campaign events to spin the jobs report in their favor. At a rally in Hilliard, Ohio, Obama touted the new jobs as a sign of progress.
“We’ve created 5.4 million new jobs, and this morning we learned companies hired more workers in October than any time in the last eight months,” he said.
He added that the auto industry has recovered, and that home values and housing construction are on the rise.
“We’ve made real progress, but we’re here today because we know we have more work to do,” he said. “As long as there’s a single American who wants a job can’t find one ... We have more work to do.”
Romney focused on the rise in the unemployment rate, saying in a statement that the economy was “at a virtual standstill.”
In what his campaign called a “closing argument” speech in West Allis, Wis., Romney said a second Obama term could mean a second recession.
The president “said that the unemployment rate would now be 5.2 percent,” Romney said. “Today we learned that it is 7.9 percent — it is 9 million jobs short of what he promised. Unemployment is higher today than when Barack Obama took office ... Unless we change course, we may be looking at another recession.”
Earlier in the week, MSNBC aired an interview with Obama during which the president said he would like to create a Cabinet-level position called the secretary of business that would oversee consolidated agencies that deal with small-business loans and exports, saying there should be a “one-stop shop.”
Romney panned the idea at a campaign stop in Roanoke on Thursday.
“We don’t need a secretary of business to understand business,” he said. “We need a president who understands business.”