President Barack Obama gets grim job news; Mitt Romney pounces on it
Evan Vucci, Associated Press
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — His convention over, President Barack Obama ran smack into the harsh reality of a bleak new report on the nation's unemployment outlook Friday. Republican rival Mitt Romney pounced on the jobs figures as fresh evidence that it's time to put someone new in the Oval Office.
"We're going in the wrong direction," the GOP nominee said flatly.
Obama, for his part, admitted: "We need to create more jobs, faster."
Fresh out of the two national conventions, both Obama and Romney chose to campaign Friday in New Hampshire and Iowa, improbable battleground states in the too-close-to-call race.
Sixty days out from the election, the rivals were quick to roll out rival contexts for the new Labor Department report showing that U.S. employers added just 96,000 jobs last month, failing to meet expectations. The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July, but only because more people gave up looking for work.
After making a quiet departure from his convention city in Charlotte, N.C., the president told a welcoming crowd of 6,000 at the Strawberry Banke Museum in Portsmouth that he has a plan to "fill the hole left by this recession faster."
Obama, campaigning with Vice President Joe Biden, highlighted the fact that businesses had "added jobs for the 30th month in a row," before allowing that "that's not good enough."
"There's a lot more we can do," he said — pointing squarely at Republicans in Congress for more cooperation.
Romney countered from Orange City, Iowa: "This president tried, but he didn't understand what it takes to make our economy work. I do."
Earlier, talking to reporters in Sioux City, Romney told reporters: "There's almost nothing the president's done in the last three-and-a-half, four years to give the American people confidence he knows what he's doing when it comes to jobs and the economy."
He told Fox News the latest jobs report was part of a "continued pattern, which is that we're not creating the jobs we need to create to put Americans back to work."
Alan Krueger, the chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, framed the jobs report as "further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression."
He added that it was "important not to read too much into any one monthly report."
Republicans chose to ignore that advice.
"This is not even close to what a recovery looks like," GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said in an interview on CNBC. "I would argue this is the result of failed leadership in Washington, bad fiscal policy coming from the administration."
Party leaders in Congress released statements offering competing spin on the meaning of the figures.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the report "underscores President Obama's failed promises to get our economy moving again."
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Obama and the Democrats had plenty of plans to create more jobs and boost the economy but Republicans "keep standing in the way of growth and certainty for our economy."
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt tried to shift the focus to what he said were failings in Romney's economic plans, referring back to the GOP convention in Florida last month and the track record of the Bush administration.
"In Tampa, Mitt Romney didn't offer one idea that would create good-paying, sustainable jobs for the middle class," LaBolt said in a statement. "Gov. Romney has yet to explain how returning to policies that crashed the economy and devastated the middle class would now have the opposite impact."
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