News that the U.S. economy shed another 95,000 jobs last month sparked a war of words Friday between GOP leaders and the White House over who's to blame, with angry voters only a few weeks away from taking out their frustrations at the polls.
"The steep drop was far worse than economists had been predicting," The New York Times reported. "Most estimates were for a loss of only a few thousand jobs."
According to The Associated Press, U.S. unemployment has now exceeded 9.5 percent for 14 straight months. That's the longest stretch that has happened since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
It was the last major employment report to be released before the election on Nov. 2. That may have accounted for the immediate finger-pointing by both sides of the aisle.
"The reason the economy is not creating jobs right now is there's a tremendous lack of confidence in this team in the White House," Elaine Chao, who served as secretary of labor in the Bush administration.
President Obama, who deliver appeared wan and almost lackluster, noted that the primary job losses came from public sector employment.
Private sector employment increased for the ninth consecutive month, although at too slow a rate to stem the upward pressure on unemployment.
"I should point out," Obama said, "that these continuing layoffs by state and local governments -- teachers, police officers, and firefighters and the like -- would have been even worse without the federal help that we've provided to states over the last 20 months, help that the Republicans in Congress have consistently opposed.
"I think the Republican position doesn't make much sense," he said. " … so we need to continue to explore ways that we can help states and local governments maintain workers who provide vital services."
The fact that government employment dropped suggests that just as the drag from departing Census jobs ends, another wave of job cuts is looming from state and local governments.
"The unemployment numbers today are so disappointing because they show that even with over $1 trillion in new additional spending, and the deficits that we have incurred, even government jobs cannot be sustained," Chao told Fox News.
The new means Democrats won't receive the last-minute salvation many of them had hoped for before undecided voters begin to make their choices in the final weeks of the midterm campaign.
“There goes the Democrats’ last argument that we’ve turned the corner,” Jim Morone, a Brown University political scientist, told the Financial Times.
“President Obama’s argument that things are coming along is reminiscent of the argument that President Bush was saying at the end of his administration.”
Republicans predictably jumped on the bad jobs numbers to criticize the president's management of the economy.
“Near 10 per cent unemployment and widespread uncertainty are a far cry from the robust recovery President Obama promised the American people,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.
RNC chairman Michael Steele chimed in as well, stating: "Seventeen consecutive months with higher than 9 percent unemployment represent the final verdict on the failed economic policies of this White House and the Democrat Congress as voters head to the polls."
The poor jobs numbers also gave proponents of extending the Bush tax cuts another opportunity to make their case.
"It’s not surprising that employers aren’t hiring," economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a Hudson Institute senior fellow, told Politico. "Congress has left town and employers don’t even know what their tax rate is going to be next January."
As weak as the September jobs numbers were -- which came a full 15 month after the recession supposedly ended -- many analysts believe the true unemployment number is much worse.
That's because the "underemployment" figure -- comprised of those who are unemployed plus those working fewer hours than needed -- jumped in September from 16.7 percent to 17.1 percent.
The last time underemployment was higher was in late 2009.
Also Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised its models to show that the recovery had been even weaker than earlier reported. It revised down the employment level in the 12 month period ending March by 366,000 jobs.
That means from March 2009 to March 2010, the economy added about 30,000 fewer jobs per month than initially reported.
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