Three months shy of Election Day, the latest numbers showed monthly job creation was higher than expected — but unemployment rose, too. That gave each candidate political room to see only what he wanted, and to stick with the fundamental economic argument that he thinks will win the White House.
“It’s another hammer blow to the struggling middle-class families of America,” Romney said of the pace of job growth, assailing Obama’s record from a Las Vegas trucking business. At the White House, Obama surrounding himself with some of those families, playing up 29 straight months that private employers have added jobs.
“Those are our neighbors and families finding work,” Obama said. “But, let’s acknowledge, we’ve still got too many folks out there who are looking for work.”
Fittingly, the two men spoke over each other on television, holding events at the same time.
The economy is stuck, long removed from the days of implosion but not growing enough to reduce unemployment or make people feel better. No signs of help are coming from a gridlocked president and Congress, or from the Federal Reserve, or from U.S. allies with their own problems as the world economy suffers.
That means the economy voters have now may be the one they get when it’s time to pick a president.
The bright spot: Employers added 163,000 jobs in July, more than double that of June. Yet the politically important unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent, a notch above June’s 8.2 percent.
Only three such tone-setting jobs reports remain before the election — one in September the day after Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention, one in October shortly after the two men debate on the economy, and one in November a mere four days before the election.
Whatever the monthly ups and downs, the big picture shows that the largest economy in the world has yet to take off: The 151,000 jobs added on average each month this year is almost the same monthly average as last year.
No economic recovery since World War II has been weaker than the current rebound from the recession that ended in June 2009.
A status-quo economy means the campaign arguments and strategies are not changing, either.