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.
“That’s 9 million jobs short of what (Obama) promised,” Romney said at a rally in Wisconsin shortly before noon. “Unemployment is higher today than when Barack Obama took office.”
The rate was 7.8 percent the month Obama took office. “Today’s increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill,” Romney said in a separate written statement. “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.