The presidential candidates wound up their pre-Labor Day campaigns Saturday with Democrat Michael Dukakis paying a sentimental visit to Ellis Island and Republican George Bush pointedly praising his opponent's debating skills.

"He's probably a better debater," Bush said of the Massachusetts governor, adding quickly: "I'm lowering expectations."In an outdoor news conference followed by a picnic for reporters at his vice presidential residence on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, Bush refrained from the fiery attacks that dominated his campaign speeches last week.

However, Dukakis started his day by attacking Bush's insensitivity to the plight of the unemployed. Bush on Friday called an increase in the jobless rate from 5.4 percent in July to 5.6 percent in August "statistically almost irrelevant."

Dukakis seized on that Saturday, telling supporters outside his hotel in Sioux Falls, S.D., that the increase meant "another 200,000 people without jobs."

Bush, meanwhile, said a two-day break in campaigning this weekend is "a good time to take stock of where things stand."

He said he was not concerned about questions arising over Stuart Spencer, campaign manager for vice presidential running mate Dan Quayle. Spencer's lobbying firm was paid more than $350,000 in l985 and 1986 to assist the Panamanian government headed by Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Quayle, campaigning in Atlanta, also defended Spencer: "I believe that his political experience and political guidance has been and will be valuable to me."