Updated 08/03/2012 11:36 PM
Decision 2012: White House Candidates Argue Over Meaning Of New Unemployment Report
Friday's report from the U.S. Department of Labor that 163,000 jobs were added in the month of July but the nation's unemployment rate rose slightly provided led President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney to clash over how to interpret the data. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
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Despite a better than expected jobs report, the nation's unemployment rate continues to struggle and is setting the tone for the next phase in the battle for the White House.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor 163,000 jobs were added in July, following three months of sluggish hiring.
The private sector added 172,000 jobs last month, while the government lost 9,000 jobs.
However, the unemployment rate rose slightly from 8.2 percent to 8.3 percent.
The figures show 12.8 million Americans remain unemployed.
Speaking to supporters Friday, both presidential candidates provided their own assessment of the numbers.
"It's another hammer blow to the struggling middle class families of America because the president has not had policies that put American families back to work. I do, I'll put them in place and get America working again," said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"We learned that our businesses created 172,000 new jobs in the month of July. That means that we've now created 4.5 million new jobs over the last 29 months and 1.1 million jobs so far this year," said President Barack Obama.
Obama cautioned that the policies advocated by his opponent are not the answer.
"We are not going to get there. We are not going to get to where we need to be if we go back to the policies that helped create this mess in the first place," the president said.
Economic data are subject to interpretation. Romney points out that the unemployment rate has now been above 8 percent for 42 months, the longest period in U.S. history.
The Obama administration counters that the number of jobs added in July was the highest in five months.
"What is important to talk about is where we've come from. When this president took office, we were shedding 800,000... 700,000 jobs per month. Now we have been adding jobs," said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. "In the last 29 months 4.5 million private sector jobs. But we have to do better."
In his weekly radio show, Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to put the unemployment number in perspective.
"Unemployment rate is a funny number. It's done by telephone survey, rather than actual numbers. It's a guesstimate, it's a small sample," said the mayor. "But when it goes up for a little while, that generally means people are coming back into the market."
Presidents have both benefited from a strong economy and taken the blame when it turns sour. Only three more months of economic data will be made available to the public before the election, with those final numbers for October being released just a few days before Election Day.