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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there