Sat August 4, 2012 12:01pm
GRASPING for an election advantage, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have cast Friday's newest round of economic data is starkly different ways.
Obama heralded more signs of slow but steady job growth, while Romney said the uptick in the unemployment rate was a "hammer blow" to the middle class.
Both candidates sought to score political points in the hours after the Labor Department said the economy added 163,000 jobs in July, marking the best pace of hiring in five months. The jobless rate rose slightly, however, to 8.3 per cent, from 8.2 per cent in June.
Obama's electoral prospects in November depend in large part on convincing Americans he has put an economy once on the brink of recession on the path to growth, however sluggish that growth may be. He touted a 29th straight month of private sector job growth, but acknowledged there were still too many people without jobs.
"We've still got too many folks out there looking for work," he said during an event at the White House. "We've got more work to do on their behalf."
Romney, running for the presidency on his record as a successful businessman, said Friday's numbers were "not just statistics" and underscored the real struggles people across the country are facing. He blamed Obama's health care law and burdensome regulations.
"Those policies, we know where they lead," Romney said. "They lead to an America that is not as strong as it must be for ourselves, for our children and for the world."
Obama and Romney spoke simultaneously from opposite sides of the country.
The president was flanked by the kind of people he says would benefit from his push to extend tax cuts for the middle class while allowing cuts for upper income earners to expire. Romney spoke at a truck equipment company in Nevada, the state with the nation's highest unemployment rate.