DENVER — The final jobs report before the presidential election offered something for both campaigns as they fight to finish in a handful of battleground states.
The Labor Department announced Friday morning that the economy added 171,000 jobs last month, beating expectations; and jobs numbers for August and September were also adjusted upwards.
That’s the positive news for President Obama, whose reelection hopes hinge in large part on how voters view the economy and how much they hold him responsible for it.
The bad news for Obama: the nation’s unemployment rate ticked up from 7.8 percent in September to 7.9 in October, allowing Republican Mitt Romney some extra ammunition for the final four days of stump speeches.
“Today’s increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill,” Romney said in a statement Friday morning.
“The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23 million Americans struggling for work. On Tuesday, America will make a choice between stagnation and prosperity.”
The Obama administration, not surprisingly, has a different view.
“While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression,” said Alan Krueger the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.
“It is critical that we continue the policies that are building 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.”
With four days left and millions of ballots already cast, Romney’s path to an electoral college victory isn’t an easy one.
Battle focuses on economy in the Midwest
Friday moning in Wisconsin, a traditionally Democratic state he may need to win in order to reach 270 electoral votes, Romney offered his toughest indictment of the Obama economy to date.
“Look to the record, the accomplishments and failures, and the judgment. Words are cheap. A record is real and earned with effort. Change cannot be measured in speeches; it is measured in achievements,” Romney said.
“Four years ago, candidate Obama promised to do so very much, but he has fallen so very short. He promised to be a ‘post-partisan president’ but he became the most partisan — blaming, attacking, dividing.
“He was going to focus on creating jobs. Instead, he focused on Obamacare, which killed jobs.”
Obama, meanwhile, is focusing less on Romney in his own closing argument.
As he did Thursday during speeches in Green Bay, Wisc., Las Vegas, Nev. and Boulder, Colo., Obama, after three days off the trail spent focusing on the federal response to Hurricane Sandy, eschewed the snideness of recent weeks and offered a more populist, optimistic vision for the next four years during his first Friday speech in Ohio.
With an emphasis on the auto bailout responsible for saving thousands of jobs in the Buckeye State, Obama again sought to reclaim the mantra of change from an opponent who’s been trying to paint 2008’s candidate of change as the embodiment of 2012’s status quo.
“When you try to change the facts just because they’re inconvenient to your campaign, that’s not change,” Obama said Friday at the Franklin County Fairgrounds.
“GM said creating jobs in the United States should be a source of bipartisan pride. And I understand that Gov. Romney had a tough time in Ohio because he was against saving the auto industry. Had trouble along the way because he was on video tape saying the words ‘Let Detroit go bankrupt.’ And I know, you know, we’re close to the election, but this isn’t a game.
“These are people’s jobs, these are people’s lives.”