Updated at 10:10 am and 10:40 EDT
69,000 new jobs.
A fraction of what was forecast.
And unemployment inched up again: from 8.1 to 8.2 percent.
The monthly report of the Department of Labor this morning — which not only offered a tepid picture of job creation in May, but also revised the previous month’s gains downward to 77,000 — comes at the start of the fifth month before Election Day.
It makes it difficult for President Barack Obama, campaigning for re-election, to press his case that things are getting better. It makes it easier for Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, to argue that Obama isn’t up to the job.
(Update: ”Every recession ends and there’s a recovery,” Romney told supporters at a campaign fundraiser last night at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “We’ve never had a recession that went on forever. This one just happens to have gone on longer than any before, and the recovery is more tepid than any others before, for he which he takes the blame in my view.”
This morning, after the jobs report release, Romney issued a statement:
“Today’s weak jobs report is devastating news for American workers and American families,” he said in part. ”Slowing GDP growth, plunging consumer confidence and now another dismal jobs report all stand as a harsh indictment of the president’s handling of the economy.’
The White House took a longer view, noting that the economy has added 4.3 million private-sector jobs over 27 consecutive month of job growth.
“There is much more work that remains to be done to repair the damage caused by the financial crisis and deep recession that began at the end of 2007,” Alan Krueger, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in a blog post on the White House’s Web-site. He said that it’s “critical that we continue the president’s economic policies that are helping us dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession.”)
Bigger job and wage gains are needed to jump-start a self-sustaining increase in hiring and consumer spending that will boost the expansion, as Bloomberg’s Tim Homan reports this morning. At the same time, a looming recession in the euro area and slower growth in China and Brazil may prompt American companies to reduce headcount until they see more evidence the U.S. economy isn’t faltering.
“The robust employment growth at the start of the year has clearly waned,” Ellen Zentner, a senior U.S. economist at Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York, said before the report. “Hiring plans may have been put on hold amidst an increasingly uncertain outlook.”
Obama, heading to Minnesota and Chicago today for fund-raisers, plans an appearance at a Honeywell plant outside Minneapolis. He is certain to talk about the need for new jobs and what clean energy can mean to the economy.
Romney, campaigning on the West Coast, is sure to find an opportunity to underscore his argument that he understands the economy, and how to fix it, better than Obama.
Public perception of the economy’s trajectory will be paramount in shaping voter decisions in the November election, as Bloomberg’s Mike Dorning reports today.
“The state of the economy is not all that clear,” said Christopher Wlezien, a political science professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and co-author of the forthcoming book “The Timeline of Presidential Elections.” “What happens over the next four or five months is going to matter a lot to the president.”