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


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
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower