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Come Election Day, U.S. economy at standstill

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 2nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's as if one door opened and another door closed in the U.S. economy on the eve of Election Day. The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent - while the economy added a better-than-expected 171,000 jobs. However -- the number of unemployed grew by 170,000, roughly the same amount -- to 12.3 million. How this will impact voters is anyone's guess.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - These numbers will allow President Obama to say the economy is technically growing under his watch. These figures will also add ammunition to Mitt Romney to say that the new jobs are not making much of a dent in the unemployment problem. On a purely objective level, it underscores the slow pace of the recovery.

"That's nine million jobs short of what (Obama) promised," Romney said at a rally in Wisconsin. "Unemployment is higher today than when Barack Obama took office."

The rate was 7.8 percent the month Obama took office. "Today's increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill," Romney said in a written statement.

"When I'm president, I'm going to make real changes that lead to a real recovery, so that the next four years are better than the last."

One voice that remains pessimistic is former Bureau of Labor Statistics chief Keith Hall, who told Fox Business Network that at this rate, "we're still talking nine or 10 years" before the economy gets back to normal.

The president, speaking in Ohio pointed to the report as another sign the economy is moving in the right direction, despite the challenges remaining.

"We've made real progress, but we are here today because we know we've got more work to do," Obama said. "As long as there's a single American who wants a job and can't find one, as long as there are families working harder but falling behind . our fight goes on."

Objective, level heads, who look at the figures as they are, offer moderate views. "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," Alan B. Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said.

The numbers represent the last major economic report before Election Day, concluding what has effectively been a two-year campaign focused largely on jobs -- or the lack of jobs.

Growth remains slow, but over the long term Obama can argue the economy has expanded, albeit modestly. Federal figures show that since October 2011, the number of unemployed has shrunk by 1.5 million in spite of October's increases. Still, that number does not count those not currently looking for work, and the latest report shows roughly 6.5 million people are in that category despite still wanting a job.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a top Romney surrogate, reminded voters that the 7.9 percent rate is far higher than what the administration initially predicted.

"He promised sweeping reforms that would boost our hurting economy, including a trillion dollar stimulus package that would reduce unemployment to 5.4 percent and policies to reduce the deficit in half by now," he said.

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