While the White House hails data showing an improved U.S. labor market,
Republican presidential contenders continue to blast President Barack
Obama’s economic performance.
It is the central political issue of 2012: the U.S. economy, which
suffered the worst recession of the post-World War II era in 2007 and
2008, and has endured an anemic recovery since. But the economic
landscape may be changing. U.S. unemployment has fallen for four
consecutive months, down from 9 percent in September to 8.3 percent in
While Wall Street rallied Friday on the latest jobs report, President
Obama highlighted the good news. “In January, American businesses added
another 257,000 jobs. The unemployment rate came down, because more
people found work. And altogether, we have added 3.7-million jobs over
the last 23 months," he said.
The response from Republicans vying to challenge the president in the
November election? Too little too late to alter what they see as Mr.
Obama’s failed economic stewardship. Addressing supporters after his
caucus victory Saturday in Nevada, former Massachusetts governor Mitt
Romney pointed out the Obama administration initially aimed to keep the
unemployment rate at 8 percent or less.
“This week he has been trying to take a bow for 8.3-percent
unemployment. Not so fast, Mr. President. This is the 36th straight
month with unemployment above the red line your own administration
drew," he said.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich had a similar line of attack on NBC’s "Meet
The Press" program. “Unemployment has dropped. Well, it has dropped. You
know why? Because over 4 percent of the people who would be unemployed
have quit looking for work. If we had the same participation rate we had
a couple years ago, we would be at 12- or 13-percent unemployment," he
For President Obama, a fine line to walk: trumpeting good news while
acknowledging the need for further improvement. “There are still far too
many Americans who need a job or need a job that pays better than the
one they have now. But the economy is growing stronger. The recovery is
speeding up. And we have got to do everything in our power to keep it
going," he said.
Polling firms report modest improvements in President Obama’s approval
ratings that coincide with recent positive economic data.