POSTED: 4:57 a.m. HST, Aug 3, 2012
WASHINGTON >> President Barack Obama received new jobs figures today to buttress his argument that he’s presiding over steady, if slow, economic growth. But the government’s report that the overall rate of unemployment actually crept up by one-tenth of a point allows Republican Mitt Romney to keep pressure on Obama to defend his record.
The new unemployment numbers show that private employers added 163,000 jobs in July, the best pace of hiring in five months. The jobless rate rose, however, to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent in June.
July’s hiring was the best since February. Still, the economy has added an average of 151,000 jobs a month this year — enough to keep up with population growth but not enough to drive down the unemployment rate.
“After a string of disappointing economic reports ... we’ll certainly take it,” said James Marple, senior economist at TD Economics.
Stocks rose sharply in early trading on Wall Street.
The government uses two surveys to measure employment. A survey of businesses showed job gains. The unemployment rate comes from a survey of households and is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed people by the size of the labor force. In July, more people said they were unemployed, while the size of the labor force shrank even more.
Economists say the business survey is more reliable.
Romney jumped on the jobless rate increase, calling the figures a “hammer blow” to middle-class families.
“We’ve now gone 42 consecutive months with the unemployment rate above 8 percent,” Romney said in a statement. “Middle-class Americans deserve better, and I believe America can do better.”
No U.S. president since World War II has been re-elected with unemployment above 8 percent.
White House economist Alan Krueger said today’s report was evidence that the economy is recovering.
“It is critical that we continue the policies that build 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,” Krueger said.
Obama, while acknowledging that economic growth hasn’t come fast enough, has sought to convince voters that the situation could have been far worse. He puts some of the blame for the sluggish recovery on congressional Republicans, accusing them of blocking his proposals for creating jobs.