The suddenly dismal news on American jobs is a blow to President Barack Obama’s re-election argument that he has been a steward of recovery. It’s heightened White House anxiety over global threats to U.S. economic growth — and the president’s political prospects, too.
The economy, Obama conceded Friday, “is not growing as fast as we want it to.”
Taking a harsher tone, presumed Republican rival Mitt Romney declared that the country appeared to be “moving backward.” He sought to drive home a political point from the nation’s first increase in joblessness in almost a year.
After a winter when the job trends were in his favor, Obama has been forced onto the defensive by three months of lackluster to dismal growth. Confronted by Friday’s report of a feeble 69,000 new jobs and an uptick in unemployment to 8.2 percent in May, Obama vigorously renewed his demand that Congress step up and enact some of his jobs proposals.
Calling the Eurozone’s debt crisis a “shadow” hanging over the U.S. economy, Obama made his most urgent plea yet for measures that he said would “serve as a buffer in case the situation in Europe gets any worse.”
Later Friday, speaking to donors at a fundraiser, Obama said: “Europe is having a significant crisis in part because they haven’t taken as many of the decisive steps as were needed to deal with the challenge, and that’s weakened Asia, and that means it’s harder for our exports. All this stuff makes a difference in the global economy.”
The jobs numbers, issued early every month, have become the year’s dominant economic barometer, a baseline from which to gauge Obama’s and Romney’s political fortunes in an election that rides on the pace of a post-recession recovery.
Romney, responding to the first jobs report since he effectively clinched the GOP presidential nomination, called the figures “devastating news.”
In an interview Friday with CNBC, Romney said that Obama’s policies and his handling of the economy had “been dealt a harsh indictment.”