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July jobs report: Hiring picks up, unemployment rises

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NEW YORK — Businesses stepped up their hiring in July, but the unemployment rate ticked higher anyway, offering good and bad news for both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney with 95 days until Election Day.

Employers said they added 163,000 jobs in the month, according to a Labor Department report released Friday. It’s the best jobs report since February, and much better than the 95,000 jobs economists had forecast.

But at the same time, the unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to 8.3% as households claimed they lost 195,000 jobs.

Romney jumped on the report, 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.”

In a statement released by his campaign, Romney touted the economic plan he introduced Thursday in Colorado that he says will create 12 million new jobs in his first term.

“President Obama doesn’t have a plan and believes that the private sector is ‘doing fine’,” Romney said. “Obviously, that is not the case.”

The government’s monthly jobs report comes from two separate surveys: one that looks at company payrolls, and the other which questions households. Those two reports went in opposite directions in July, confusing the overall reading on the job market.

According to the employer survey, the public sector continues to be a drag on overall hiring. The government cut 9,000 jobs in the month, while private businesses added 172,000 jobs.

Revisions from previous months also showed the economy gained 6,000 fewer jobs in May and June than originally thought.

Three years after the recession officially ended, roughly 12.8 million Americans remain unemployed, and 40.7% of them have been so for six months or more.

Meanwhile, 852,000 so-called “discouraged workers” were not counted in the labor force, because they did not look for a job in the last four weeks.

“While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression,” said Alan Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. 

“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.”