By Kent Klein
Four days before the election, President Barack Obama Friday called the October U.S. unemployment numbers “real progress,” but he said there is “more work to do.”
Obama was referring to the government’s Friday report that showed the unemployment rate edged higher in October, to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in September.
However, 171,000 jobs were created, far exceeding analysts’ prediction of 125,000 new positions.
The last major economic report before Tuesday’s presidential election appears to include figures that support both candidates’ arguments.
At a rally near Columbus, Ohio, Friday, the president concentrated on the better-than-expected number of new jobs.
“This morning we learned that companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months,” said Obama.
However, he said more work lies ahead, adding that he should be the one to do it.
“As long as there is a single American who wants a job and cannot find one, as long as there are families working harder but falling behind, as long as there is a child anywhere in this country who is languishing in poverty and barred from opportunity, our fight goes on. We have got more work to do,” Obama said.
Romney, campaigning near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pointed out that the unemployment rate is one-tenth of a percentage point higher than in January 2009. He said the nation’s economic recovery has fallen far short of what Obama promised four years ago.
“Unemployment is higher today than when Barack Obama took office. Think of that: Unemployment today is higher than on the day Barack Obama took office.”
Romney said the higher jobless rate is a reminder that the economy is at a “virtual standstill.”
Meanwhile, both candidates have been campaigning before increasingly enthusiastic crowds. Supporters at Democratic rallies shouted “four more years!,” reflecting their desire for another term for the president. Republican crowds have a slightly different chant, “four more days,” their way of counting down to Election Day next Tuesday.
Both candidates are spending much of Friday concentrating on Ohio, the battleground state many analysts believe is the most likely to decide the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.
Obama had three events scheduled Friday in Ohio, Governor Romney two. By one count, the president has made 35 visits to Ohio in his four-year term, and 19 this year, with more expected before Tuesday.
Romney has also been campaigning in Wisconsin, where Obama has consistently led, but Republicans say they have a chance to win.
The Obama campaign countered Friday by sending Vice President Joe Biden to speak at a rally in Wisconsin.