Friday's jobless report comes as the public's confidence about the economy is already wavering. The percentage of people in an Associated Press-GfK poll last month that said the economy got better in the past month fell below 20 percent for the first time since fall. And few said they expected much improvement in the unemployment rate in the coming year.
Romney has not been able to exploit that sentiment fully. In national polls, the president either retains a slight edge or is in a statistical tie with his challenger.
The economic data continues to provide a mixed picture of the recovery. Weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped last week to the lowest number since the week of May 19. At the same time, retailers recorded tepid sales in June. And a report last week said U.S. manufacturing shrank in June for the first time in nearly three years, undermining a top Obama talking point.
In selecting Ohio and Pennsylvania for his two-day bus tour, Obama began a more retail-oriented phase of his campaign in two battleground states that have had better economic experiences than other parts of the country. Both states had unemployment rates of 7.3 percent in May, well below the national average of 8.2 percent.
Friday's schedule includes a stop at an elementary school in Poland, Ohio, near Youngstown, followed by a speech at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Kicking off his two-state, 250-mile bus tour in Maumee in the northern Ohio suburbs, Obama said he "refused to turn my back on communities like this one."
Romney, from his family lake home in New Hampshire, criticized Obama for offering "no new answers" on the economy.
Quick to counter Obama's message, Republicans dispatched former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, two potential vice presidential nominees, to argue Romney's case in some of the same towns Obama was visiting.
"We should all bet on the country, but we shouldn't double down on Barack Obama," Pawlenty said Thursday. "He's had his chance. It's not working."
Associated Press Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.
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