In the homestretch of a presidential race where every minute shift in the economy can translate into potential votes, both campaigns took aim Friday at the Labor Department’s estimate that the jobless rate fell below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years.
President Obama’s team touted the numbers as a sign the economy is improving. Mitt Romney, along with several economists, expressed deep skepticism about the report.
The data even elicited a conspiracy theory from former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who tweeted: “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.”
The Labor Department reported that the rate dipped in September from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent. It was a glimmer of good news for Obama, who’s trying to recover from a disappointing debate performance and whose central argument is that the economy is moving in the right direction.
“This morning, we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since I took office,” Obama said at a Virginia rally Friday. “It’s a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now. … We’ve made too much progress to return to the policies that led to the crisis in the first place.”
Romney’s campaign quickly pointed out the number of people who have left the workforce has also helped keep the jobless rate down.
“This is not what a real recovery looks like. We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we’ve lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office,” Romney said in a statement. “If not for all the people who have simply dropped out of the labor force, the real unemployment rate would be closer to 11 percent.”
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