(CNN) – Friday's jobs report indicating only 96,000 jobs were created in August brought a quick end to any lingering Democratic euphoria from this week's party convention, bringing into sharp reality the challenges President Barack Obama will face in the two months until Election Day.
The monthly report, one of the few remaining before voters head to the polls November 6, showed the unemployment rate falling to 8.1% as more workers withdrew from the labor market. The 96,000 jobs created were also not enough to keep up with the population entering the workforce.
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Republicans, eager to portray Obama as weak on economic policy and jobs creation, quickly latched onto Friday's report as another indication that his time in office has been a failure, saying Obama's policies were hurting struggling Americans – and that the time had come for a change.
"After the party last night, the hangover's today," Mitt Romney, Obama's Republican challenger, told reporters ahead of a campaign stop in New Hampshire. "The jobs numbers were disappointing, for almost every new job created, approximately four people dropped out of the workforce. Seeing that kind of report is obviously disheartening to American people that need work and are having a hard time finding work."
"There's almost nothing the president has done in the last three and half four years that give the people confidence that the president knows what he's doing when it comes to jobs and the economy," Romney continued. "And there's certainly nothing he said last night that give the American people confidence that he knows what he would do to create jobs or build a stronger economy."
Obama himself told a crowd in New Hampshire the numbers were "not good enough."
"We need to create more jobs faster," Obama said. "We need to fill the hole left by this recession faster. We need to come out of this crisis stronger than when we went in."
Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, said on CNBC the numbers were "not even close to what a recovery looks like."
"This is not what President Obama promised," Ryan said.
While jobs numbers aren't the only important economic figures, they are the most highly scrutinized. No sitting president facing an unemployment rate higher than 8% has won another term since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Even a confident Wall Street will do little to pad the blow to Obama following Friday's report. On Thursday the Dow Jones industrial average surged 245 points, or 1.9%, and closed at the highest level since December 2007. The S&P 500 climbed 2% to its highest level since January 2008 while the Nasdaq shot up 2.2% to its highest level since November 2000.
"These numbers really reinforce my sense of where the race stands after both conventions," CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein said after Friday's numbers were released. "To me, it felt like neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama really demonstrated a second gear that would really expand their coalition beyond what they came in with. And thus the race seems poised for just trench warfare with each side fighting to move very small margins among their various constituencies."
"This is not catastrophic enough to drop the bottom out from President Obama, but no tailwind behind him at all. And just setting us up for grinding trench warfare," he continued.
David Frum, another CNN contributor and a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, said the numbers meant more people were giving up hope – and that was bad for Obama.
"For the president's point of view and the president's party, when people give up on looking for work, they also give up on trying to vote," Frum said. "They become detached from society. And those are the people he needs to motivate. They have to at least have hope. And here they are demonstrating when they quick looking for work they are giving up on hope."
In a statement released by the White House, Alan Krueger, the chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, wrote that the report did indicate the economy was recovering.
"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 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."
As reflected in Democrats' struggles over answering the question "are you better off today than you were four years ago," the president's team must maintain a balance between touting the ways the economy has improved, while still recognizing the dire circumstances facing millions of Americans.
Former President Bill Clinton, speaking to delegates Wednesday, summed up the Democrats' challenge this way: "Many Americans are still angry and frustrated with the economy. Though employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend and even housing prices are picking up a bit, too many people don't feel it."
If Obama is re-elected, Clinton said, "You will feel it."
The president himself made a similar pitch Thursday, saying "change will not happen" if voters turn him away in November.
"The truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades," Obama added.
The unemployment rate fell only because a few hundred thousand more people are no longer eligible for unemployment. Want to bet it goes up again when the rate is "seasonally adjusted?"
Bill Clinton was right. If we re-elect Obama, we will definitely feel it. We won't like what we are feeling either.
Says who?? I'm still "high" from the convention..
Really stretching it, aren't we?
good news, how it ends? GOP drama?
The 30th month in a row with job growth! President Obama deserves to be re-elected.
I don't understand this obsession with job creation. I don't open the classifieds to see an empty page under the heading "Jobs". The jobs are out there. Take them. Stop collecting unemployment.
Headline – Economy loses 96,000 jobs, what a disappointment....oh, what, we actucally created jobs and somehow that is bad news?
This isn't going to give Obama a bounce, but Romney didn't get one either. I think that the speakers at the DNC energized the Democrats more than the RNC did for the GOP.
Time for the government to start hiring again – that will take care of the unemployment problem!
I'm still enthusiastic regardless of the jobs numbers. I know this recovery can go alot faster if republicans would HELP pass the American Jobs Act.
very not true. yes, lower emplyment rate in August could be related to vacations and the fact that August is JUST the slowest month of the year when it comes to anything and everything. at the end of the day, unemployment is down to 8.1% and if my argument is true and I sincerely believe it is then we should see a huge pickup in September to makeup the shortfall in August.
It is certainly a good day for the republican congress both house, senate and Mitt
So the private sector is not doing well. Democrats are finally facing reality that things are not good. And why do we need to wait for President Obama's re-election to start feeling it as per President Clinton "If Obama is re-elected, Clinton said, "You will feel it."????? Why are we not feeling it right now, because it is not happening. Time to move on to a new leader that can handle the economy and that is Romney.
Romney will lied about the job rate.
Romney will make our country fall apart.
I am going to volunteer for Obama re-elected.
Think how rapidly our economy would be recovering if Republicans weren't conciously trying to keep that from happening! Better yet... think how good if would be if Republicans hadn't created the recession in the first place!
A job report that would end the Democrat's convention high would be the kind of report that we used to see during the Bush administration. 750,000 JOBS LOST! Kevin Liptak apparently doesn't have common sense.
We are still heading up with job creation and that's moving in the right direction. Go Obama!
I would like Republicans to explain to me how that "TRICKEL DOWN ECONOMICS" are working for you!! Are you feeling warm and fuzzy all over!! You want to blame the President... you better clean your own closet first. Straight Democratic Ticket Nov. 6th!!!
Read the article in Rolling Stone on how Romney made his money at Bain. Very interesting reading. Some of it sounds like what he plans to do with the U.S. Buy the company (aka the election) borrowing from wallstreet, run up the companiy's debt to astronomical levels, pay himself a bonus then destroy the jobs/pensions to "bring expenses" down. Isn't Romney saying how he plans on getting rid of federal jobs, to reign in "expenses"? Read the article, it's an eye opener.
I am sticking with Obama. I have faith in him, and none in Romney. And I'm a swing state voter. Obama 2012!
Ah yes, the 42nd monthly "we must do better but continue what we're doing" speech. It's worked so well so far...
Atleast president Obama has a plan
What does Romney have nothing. He was a failure as a governor, the only thing Romney is good for is ship the middle class jobs to China, India and Mexico
Why do right wingnuts think that losing 800,000 jobs a month under Bush is better than gaining 96,000 jobs?
Mittens was a failure as governor of MA, yet the right wingnuts think, that with Mittens increasing the MA debt by $2.6 billion, outsourced government jobs to India, and increased taxes over 700 times, Mittens will make a better president.