Updated again at 11:35 am EDT
Direct mailings to voters in Virginia are calling three-and-a-half years of unemployment over 8 percent “a hammer blow to America’s middle-class families. ”
It is part of Republican Mitt Romney’s persisting message: Voters have a choice of his plans “for a stronger middle class” — promoting energy independence, cutting the deficit and more — versus President Barack Obama’s society in which “government creates jobs, not people.” Those are the words in the Virginia Republican Party’s mailings this week.
Today, for the first time in 44 months, the unemployment rate has fallen to 7.8 percent.
A 43-month streak of 8-percent-plus unemployment, the longest stretch since the federal government started keeping records in 1948, has ended one month before the presidential election — with just one additional monthly Labor Department report scheduled on the Friday before the Nov. 6 vote.
“This morning we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since I took office,” Obama said today at a campaign rally in Virginia. “Today’s news is certainly not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points. It’s a reminder that this economy has come too far to turn back now.”
Still, the Romney campaign moved quickly this morning to find a lead lining in the report:
“This is not what a real recovery looks like,” Romney said in a statement issued by his campaign. “We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we’ve lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office. ”
Before a campaign rally in Abingdon, Virginia, today at a machinery company that sells equipment to the coal-mining industry, Romney was stopping at Alpha Natural Resources, headquartered in nearby Bristol, which recently announced 1,200 layoffs and several mine closings that Republicans have blamed on Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Obama administration took the new number as both progress and a reminder of the challenge ahead.
“While there is more work that remains to be done, ” Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House, “today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.
The report from Labor this morning of 114,000 jobs created in September — and the unemployment rate falling from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent — undermines an argument the Republican presidential nominee is making about the president’s policies not working. Obama, acknowledging that the recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression is slow, maintains that he has provided a needed stimulus and is urging Congress to embrace additional job-building measures.
The rate reported today is the lowest since January 2009, when Obama took office.
“Symbolically that’s important,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, interviewed before the release of the jobs data by Bloomberg’s Mike Dorning. “Romney’s been talking about it’s been over 8 percent so many months. Well, now it’s not.”
The economy added 114,000 workers last month after a revised 142,000 gain in August that was more than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington.
Improving employment prospects that lead to stronger wage growth provide workers with the wherewithal to boost their spending, helping cushion the economy from a global slowdown, as Bloomberg’s Alex Kowalski reports today.
“The labor market is slowly regaining footing,” Eric Green, global head of rates and foreign-exchange research at TD Securities Inc. in New York, said before the report. “The Federal Reserve wants to see traction, faster growth.”
Both Obama and Romney are campaigning today in Virginia, one of the few swing states in which the presidential contest is being most heavily contested. Obama won Virginia in 2008, the first time the state went Democratic since 1964. It has been 62 years since Democrats won two consecutive presidential elections in Virginia — with Harry S. Truman’s election in1948, the year the government started counting joblessness.
Romney offered a preview of the tack he’ll take on the road today.
“If not for all the people who have simply dropped out of the labor force, the real unemployment rate would be closer to 11 percent,” Romney said in his issued statement. “The results of President Obama’s failed policies are staggering – 23 million Americans struggling for work, nearly one in six living in poverty and 47 million people dependent on food stamps to feed themselves and their families. The choice in this election is clear.
“Under President Obama, we’ll get another four years like the last four years,” Romney said. “If I’m elected, we will have a real recovery with pro-growth policies that will create 12 million new jobs and rising incomes for everyone.”