Payroll figures give Mitt Romney last chance to make his pitch

But mixed messages from vital figures also hand Barack Obama a way to defend his record

Ohio

An election race that hinges on the state of America's economy was dominated by the release of new employment figures yesterday which allowed both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to lay a final claim to the eagerly contested mantle of job-creator-in-chief.

The monthly report from the US Labor Department revealed that 171,000 new names were added to payrolls by employers in October. That was significantly more than the 125,000 analysts had expected, and allows Mr Obama to take the credit for 32 straight months of slow but steady private-sector job growth.

Yet it also showed the unemployment rate tick up a tenth of a point, to 7.9 per cent. That rise was due to previously idle workers surging back in to the employment market, so was in theory positive economic news. But it also offered Mr Romney a valuable avenue for attack.

"Today's increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill," Mr Romney said immediately after the report's release. "The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office... We can do better."

At a campaign stop in Wisconsin, the Republican candidate warmed to that theme, telling supporters that the President's policies were "crushing" the middle class. Citing what he called the "failed promises" of Mr Obama's last campaign, he argued that America "can't afford four more years" on its current track.

"[Obama] said that he was going to have the unemployment rate down to 5.2 per cent by now. Today, we learned that it's actually 7.9 per cent," said Mr Romney, who was last night due to speak on the outskirts of Cincinnati, in the crucial swing-state of Ohio. "That's nine million jobs short of what we were promised."

The President's riposte also came in Ohio, at a morning rally attended by roughly 2,800 supporters in the blue-collar city of Hillard. He currently carries a small but solid lead in opinion polls covering the state, whose 18 electoral college votes represent the foundation of the "firewall" protecting his chances of re-election.

"We've created 5.4 million new jobs, and this morning we learned companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months," he said. "The American auto industry is back on top. Home values and housing construction is on the rise. We're less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the past 20 years."

Making what is expected to form the backbone of his pitch, Mr Obama added: "We've made real progress, but we're here today because we know we have more work to do. As long as a single American wants a job can't find one, as long as families are working hard but falling behind, as long as there is a child languishing in poverty, our fight goes on. We have more work to do."

Deeper in yesterday's announcement were further positive signs for Mr Obama. September's new job figures – which were so good when initially released that prominent Republicans claimed they had been fabricated – were revised further upwards.

Consumer confidence is currently at its highest level for five years, according to a monthly survey released on Thursday. Home values and construction are also on the rise, albeit slowly. Mr Obama's campaign says the data reflect a nation on the right path.

Yet for all the bright signs, Mr Obama will still go into Tuesday's election with a higher unemployment rate than any sitting US President since Franklin D Roosevelt in the Depression-era 1930s. That is a fact that Republicans argue bears witness to a failed agenda.

The economy in numbers

171,000 Number of jobs added to US economy in October

7.9% Unemployment rate in October – 0.1% higher than September, despite number of extra jobs added

34.4 Hours in the average American's working week in October

$23.58 Average hourly wage in October (equal to £14.69), down one cent from September

11.8% Unemployment rate in Nevada in September – the highest in the US

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW London

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW Londo...

Recruitment Genius: Bathroom Showroom Customer Service / Sales Assistant

£14560 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Even though their premises have...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Manager

£44000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Marketing company based in cent...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence