AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A weak monthly U.S. jobs report could spell trouble for President Barack Obama and shift momentum to Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
The Labor Department said Friday U.S. employers added only 80,000 jobs in June — a third straight month of weak hiring — leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 8.2 percent.
The economy has added just 75,000 jobs a month in the April-June quarter. That’s one-third of 226,000 a month created in the first quarter. Job creation is also trailing last year’s pace through the first six months of 2012.
Romney immediately sought to take advantage of the report, taking time out from his vacation in the northeastern state of New Hampshire, to attack Obama’s handling of the economy.
“American families are struggling; there’s a lot of misery in America today,” he said. “The president’s policies have not gotten America working again. And the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it.”
Romney said he would lower taxes, reduce regulations on energy producers, open new trade with Latin America and crack down on China for what he described as unfair practices that steal American jobs.
An Associated Press-GfK poll released last month found that more than half of those surveyed disapproved of Obama’s handling of the economy, something that is especially troubling for the president in a race where the state of the economy is expected to decide the election.
The report came as Obama campaigned by bus through Ohio and Pennsylvania two crucial battleground states that could go either way in the state-by-state contests that decide the November election.
“It’s still tough out there,” Obama conceded to a campaign crowd in Ohio. He noted that the private sector jobs created in June contributed to 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months, including 500,000 new manufacturing jobs.
“That’s a step in the right direction,” he said. But he added: “We’ve got to grow the economy even faster, and we have to put even more people back to work.”
Obama criticized Romney for pushing economic ideas that, the president said, have been tried without success before.
In the polls, Obama holds a narrow lead over Romney in a number of closely targeted battleground and swing states. But Romney has crept closer in national head-to-head polls since essentially locking up the Republican nomination in April.
Obama aides had been anxiously awaiting Friday’s new jobs numbers, which follow a dismal May report that showed an uptick in the unemployment rate to 8.2 percent and raised concerns about a further economic slowdown.
Recent economic indicators have been mixed. U.S. manufacturing shrank in June for the first time in nearly three years, according to a report this week. Private payroll provider ADP reported Thursday that U.S. businesses added 176,000 jobs last month, better than the revised total of 136,000 jobs it reported for May. But shoppers pulled back on spending in June.
Associated Press writers Jack Gillum, Julie Pace and Ken Thomas in Washington, Thomas Beaumont in Iowa and John Seewer and Ben Feller in Ohio contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.