As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama reach out to voters in the final days of their campaigns, the U.S. Department of Labor issued its final jobs report before the election Friday.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the non-farm payroll employment increased by 171,000 jobs in October and the national unemployment rate increased to 7.9 percent, one-tenth of a percent more than in September. The numbers also revised September and August’s numbers upward from 142,000 to 192,000 and from 114,000 to 148,000, respectively.
Romney said in remarks given in West Allis over the weekend, the unemployment rate was higher than when Obama took office. Romney added when voters elect him as president, the economy and job creation will be stagnant, but he will change course rather than continuing Obama’s policies.
“The same path means $20 trillion in debt, crippling unemployment, stagnant take-home pay … and unless we change course, we may be looking at another recession,” Romney said in his remarks. “The question of this election comes down to this: Do you want more of the same, or do you want real change?”
However, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in a statement the unemployment rate has dropped more than two percentage points under Obama and the economy has seen 32 months of private sector job growth.
“We’ve transformed a terrible crisis into a stable and durable recovery. To state otherwise is to wage war on the facts,” Solis said in the statement. “We’ve erased all of the private sector job losses since the president took office and created an additional 1.2 million new jobs.”
Andrew Reschovsky, a University of Wisconsin public affairs and applied economics professor, said the released numbers were higher than economists forecasted. Despite slow growth, Reschovsky said to claim the economy is in stagnation is wrong.
According to Reschovsky, nobody can accurately predict when a recession will occur, but Romney’s implication is it could happen sooner if voters reelect Obama. Reschovsky said while something could happen to trigger a recession, the current economic forecast is slow and steady growth.
Reschovsky said some economists are concerned U.S. policies could follow policies pursued in Europe, which could lead to a recession. Europe pursued cuts in government services, which prompted its recession. However, Reschovsky said those polices are more in line with what Romney advocated rather than what Obama does.
“All of this is political spin,” Reschovsky said. “As an economist, I can see no justification.”
Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling released its final pre-election poll Saturday showing Obama leading Romney in Wisconsin 51 to 48 with a margin of error of about three percent.
UW political science professor David Canon said the election, in the final two days, will come down to voter turnout. Canon said the job reports will benefit the Democrats because it reassured voters that last month’s drop in the unemployment rate was not a fluke, since the report revised August and September’s numbers upward.
Canon said while most voters have made up their minds, it would be difficult to spin the job numbers in a negative way, and the jobs report could be a small boost for Democrats.
The largest gains in job creation were in the business and professional sector, which added 51,000 jobs in October, while health care added 31,000 jobs. Retail trade also added 36,000 jobs over the course of the month.