FAIRFAX, Va.—The White House cautiously welcomed news on Friday that the unemployment rate fell from 8.1 to 7.8 percent in September as vindication of President Barack Obama's policies—but emphasized that there is more to do to sweeten the sour economy.
"While there is more work that remains to be done, today's employment report [from the Labor Department] provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression," the chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, said in a White House blog post. His comments were the administration's first response to the jobs report.
"It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007," Krueger wrote.
The unemployment rate has now slipped below 8 percent for the first time in about four years. The number of jobless Americans fell to 12.1 million, the fewest since January 2009, when Obama took office.
The economy created 114,000 jobs in September, said the department, which also revised upward the number of jobs added in July and August by 86,000. The figures paint a picture of a still-weak recovery from the global economic meltdown of 2007-2008, with stubbornly high unemployment and continued woes in the housing sector. And while Democrats highlighted that the economy was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month when Obama took office, Republicans, led by presidential nominee Mitt Romney, highlighted anemic growth.
"This is not what a real recovery looks like," Romney said in a written statement on Friday. "We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we've lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office. ... The choice in this election is clear. Under President Obama, we'll get another four years like the last four years. If I'm elected, we will have a real recovery."
Krueger, in remarks the administration stresses every month, noted that "the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available."
But while the jobs report painted a mixed picture with uncertain political ramifications, some conservatives sounded downright panicked. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch tweeted his suspicion that the Labor Department had doctored the numbers because of Obama's sluggish debate performance on Wednesday.
"Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers," Welch tweeted, without providing any evidence for a claim quickly dismissed by experts—including Republicans—as lunacy.