(CNN) - Friday's jobs report showing an uptick in the nation's unemployment rate offered presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney an opportunity to blast President Barack Obama for his economic policies, though the unexpectedly high number of jobs created in July gave Democrats a shield against GOP critics.
With three monthly jobs reports remaining until November's general election, Romney sought to capitalize on the rising unemployment rate, writing the jump from 8.2% to 8.3% was a "hammer blow to struggling middle-class families."
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"My plan will turn things around and bring the economy roaring back, with twelve million new jobs created by the end of my first term," Romney promised in a statement sent shortly after the July jobs report was released.
Both Obama and Romney have events scheduled for 11:45 a.m. ET, where each candidate will likely address Friday's jobs numbers.
Capitalizing on a remark the president made in June, Romney wrote that Obama "doesn't have a plan and believes that the private sector is 'doing fine.'"
Obama made that statement at a White House press conference, arguing the private sector was doing better than the public sector.
He clarified the remark later in the day after heavy criticism from those on the other side of the political aisle.
"It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine," Obama said.
Friday's job report showed the public sector continues to be a drag on overall hiring. The government cut 9,000 jobs in the month, while private businesses added 172,000 jobs.
In his one-paragraph statement, Romney used the term "middle class" three times, pushing forward a campaign theme he began Thursday with the roll-out of a five-point plan designed to bolster the middle class.
Romney's team said they would hold 24 "Strengthening the Middle Class" events Thursday and Friday in battleground states meant to educate voters about the presumptive GOP nominee's economic plan.
Ben LaBolt, Obama's campaign press secretary, shifted focus away from the rising unemployment rate and toward the job creation numbers in Friday's report. The economy added 163,000 jobs in July, according to the Labor Department.
"There have now been 29 months of consecutive private sector job growth and we could do more today to create jobs if Mitt Romney and Republicans in Congress stopped obstructing the President's jobs plan to create one million jobs now and took immediate action to ensure taxes on middle class families don't go up," LaBolt wrote.
Voters consistently say in polls that the economy is the most important issue to them in the presidential election, making each successive monthly jobs report critical to each candidate's political fortunes. In a USA Today/Gallup survey taken July 19-22, 50% of voters nationwide said Romney would be better at creating jobs, compared to 44% who named Obama.
In the seven states CNN considers "toss ups" in November's vote, the unemployment rate varies. June figures showed four battlegrounds - Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Iowa - with jobless rates below the national average. Florida and Nevada both had rates above the U.S. average, and Colorado's rate of 8.2% was on par with the national rate. July unemployment rates for individual states will be released later in August.
In his statement reacting to Friday's news, House Speaker John Boehner similarly used Obama's "doing fine" remark, writing the rise in unemployment made it clear that the opposite was true of the economy.
"Any new job creation is welcome news - but with unemployment still above eight percent and rising, and millions of Americans looking for work, it is insane to raise taxes on small businesses, as the president and his allies in the Democratic-controlled Senate propose," Boehner wrote.
Alan B. Krueger, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, wrote that the jobs report was an indication the economy was in recovery, while still pinpointing the start of the economic crisis to before Obama took office. Like Romney, he utilized the phrase "middle class" three times in the first paragraph of his statement.
"While there is more work that remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression," Krueger wrote. "It is critical that we continue the policies that build 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."
In a line he has used for the past several months in reacting to jobs reports, Krueger wrote it was "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."
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Friday the report was an indication that Obama's economic plan "didn't work at all."
"Instead of supporting American innovation and job creation, he has squandered taxpayer money on failed companies like Solyndra, which led to job losses," Priebus wrote. "It's no wonder we can't end this economic nightmare. The president continues to take us in the wrong direction."
Priebus also used Friday's report to back the jobs plan from presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
"President Obama's only plans for a second term are higher taxes and more spending–exactly the opposite of what we need," Priebus wrote. "On Day One of his presidency, Mitt Romney will get to work implementing his comprehensive jobs plan to turn around the economy."
CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.
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Hmmmm....you beat expectations but it's still a "Hammer Blow?" I'll take tangible improvement over hyperbole anyday.
Promises like those can really came back to hunt you. Romney should be careful with what he says. It could be his final strike.
Sorry, Obama needs to run on his record. Unfortunately for him, his record as president has been extremely weak. The recession officially ended in June of 2009 - before his stimulus plan even went into effect. Obama = unsustainable/stagnant economy.... slowest recession recovery ever.
Romney has a proven record of creating NEW US jobs in the private sector (over 120,000). Unfortunately, Barack has spent over $200M trying to distort this record.
Romney is the best, most qualified candidate in 2012.
mittens reaction is... The USA should take on Polands ways.... more Unions and 12.5% unemployment.
Evidently the Republicans consider higher unemployment a great thing for this country.
Keep in mind that jobs rose. Oh, but you're not supposed to be thinking of the over-all picture, just the GOP talking points. Got it.
So much for the "hammer blow." That type of hysterics just makes GOP look desperate.
This jobs report is encouraging. Yes, we need to do better, but with the program blocked, this is as good as (if not better than) can be expected.
On the other side, I can not fathom how the Republican's "starve the beast" ideology, translated into policy, will create jobs – any jobs, muchless 12 million of them.
Only to republicans creating 163,000 jobs is bad.
REPUBLICANS ARE CHEERLEADERS IN THE COUNTRY'S ECONOMIC WOES...forgetting they were the ones who created it.
solid and encouraging, well above expectations.
America just needs to forget about the ominous storm clouds and learn to dance in the rain.., between the Greek pillars.
But analysis of Romney's budget plan shows that the middle and lower classes will ended sharing MORE of the tax burden while the rich will enjoy lower tax rates...how can he say these things with a straight face?
Romney, you lie.
Republican policies , have been an " Hammer Blow " to the middle class for decades now ! Who led us into the economic down turn of 2007 ? Bush and his cronies with their tinkle down economics ! BTW BUSH inherited a thriving economy fron Clinton and by the time he got to the middle of his second term it was on life support and by the end of his term it crashed ! He left Obama with a mess and now the Republicans are trying to say that you aren't fixing our mess fast enough !
What plan? Romney hasn't shown us any plans. The guy's a bunch of hot air. Release your tax returns. Let's see what percentage of taxes you paid. Of course you weren't involved in making millions when Bain Capitol sent American jobs over seas. You were just CEO and it's only stockholder. Hey Romney, just not going into the office doesn't count.
Well the GOOP seems full of glee about this one. By the way, Mitt, how exactly are you going to pay for your plan?
All we need now is for the GOP to stop putting people on the unemployment line with thier austerity.
If GOP state governments would actually stop firing everyone, we might get it at 7%, but hey who needs firefighters, teachers and police. Its no like we are the murder country of the world or in a drought in parts of the country where fires would crush us or middle of the road in education. Oh yeah, we are. I say no pay for Governors or State Congress.
All that is nice Mitt; but you must release all your irs tax data to prove to me that your owned corp. people installed in the white house hard drives are not a 911 style security risks.
So obviously the liberal media likes to point out how many jobs were added. How many jobs were LOST since unemployement rose? Nice spin job CNN.
Romney knows DOGGONE well that the UPTICK means more people are looking for jobs – he said it himself in the past when he complained that the percentage rate is higher than what is posted because people STOPPED LOOKING for work!!
Therefore ROBme – MORE people are looking for work now – Duh!!! Most Americans know this and Romney cannot paint it any other way. Why can't the Republicans be thankful for the 163,000 jobs added and THINK ABOUT how we can add even more instead of complaining so much? Maybe the % upTICK means all of those public sector jobs lost because of the Republican governors decided to try the job market again.
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Romney, either you're not half as smart as you think you are, or we're not half as dumb as you think we are. The uptick in unemployment doesn't mean more people are out of work. We had job growth of 168K jobs; therefore fewer people are out of work.
The uptick in the unemployment simply means that previously discouraged workers, who had fallen out of the workforce and the statistics, are now optimistic enough to resume their job search. That is a good thing.
Please stop insulting our intelligence.
Yeah right. Mitt. Keep your imaginary job promise for yourself. You said same thing in Massachuset. You were ranked 47th in job creation when the economy was booming while you was outsourcing state jobs to india. Yet, you want to pursue same failed Bush policies that collapsed our economy losing 750000 a month. The GOP blocked all jobs bills proposed by President Obama that would accelerate economic recovery. Give me a break. Release your tax returns so the American people know how you evade taxes in Swithzerland, Caymand and Bermuda. This guy is just not fit to be President. He has a lot of secret.
doing and just saying I will add 12 million jobs want work WHAT'S THE PLAN... I could say I'am going to save the world but I think that would not or it's never has.
Mitt Romney says he's going to create jobs.....the real question is how, where and what kinds of jobs? As long as US businesses continue to operate overseas there will be no jobs regardless of who wins the election. If It's "trickle down" with lower taxes for businesses, the extra money is only going to end up as Wall Street Investment which for the most part belongs to foreign investors.The average American never even sees that money. If the jobs are going to be created in India, once again that doesn't help the US economy, it only helps the company first and then India. The American Middle Class doesn't want any more promises.....Americans want their Standard of Living back which runs counter to the objectives of corporatism and globalization. Now, which of the two candidate is more likely to further those objectives?
For one thing, the "starve the beast" ideology closes doors, not opens them. It throttles back the economy instead of stimulating it. It ushers in another period of boom and bust, a la George Bush. It clips back the safety net. And it shrivels up the domestic market for goods and services. It is a disaster. And Mr. Romney is promising to deliver it to you, if you elect him.
Electing Romney will be the ultimate hammer blow to struggling middle-class families
Yes, Romney is clueless again.
The unemployment rate is up because people have resumed looking for work given the improvement in conditions, not because simply more people are unemployed.