Politics

Jobless Rate Dips to 9 Percent, Job Growth Slows to Trickle

Employers add 80,000 jobs

 

The nation's jobless rate dipped to 9 percent last month -- its lowest since last April -- but the slowdown in the economy continued as the number of new jobs added dipped to its fewest in four months.

The Labor Department says the economy added 80,000 jobs in October, below September's revised total of 158,000. The government revised August and September's data to show 102,000 more jobs added.

October's modest job growth is barely enough to keep pace with population growth. About twice as many are needed to lower the unemployment rate. Many employers are hesitant to step up hiring until they see steady demand from consumers.

The report suggests that President Obama will likely face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any post-war president.

But at the conclusion of a world summit in France Friday, Obama said "the least of my concerns at the moment is the politics of a year from now."

"I'm worried about putting people back to work right now because those folks are hurting and the U.S. economy is underperforming," he said.

Obama added that he hoped the report would persuade Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs bill that has failed to advance in the Senate either as a package or in pieces. 

Healthier consumer spending was the key reason the economy expanded at an annual pace of 2.5 percent in the July-September quarter, the best quarterly growth in a year. Growth in consumer spending tripled from the spring, despite renewed recession fears and wide fluctuations in the stock market.

But economists worry that the summer spending gains can't be sustained. For one thing, Americans spent more in the third quarter even though they earned less. And they used their savings to make up the difference.

Without more jobs and higher wages, consumers are likely to pare spending in the months ahead. Consumer spending is important because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

Republicans cited Friday's report in their case for why Senate Democrats should act on 15 jobs bills that the GOP-led House has passed. 

"Senate Democrats are out of excuses and the president must call on them to act," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. "The House has voted to remove government obstacles to desperately needed jobs -- and we've done it in a bipartisan way. At a time when these bipartisan jobs bill are stalled in the Senate, it is unacceptable for the White House to be anything less than 100 percent engaged in the legislative process."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also called on the president to ask Senate Democrats to vote on the Republican jobs bills.

"It's time for the divisive rhetoric and the constant campaigning to be put aside, so that we can deliver results for the people who are hurting right now," he said.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi blamed Republicans for keeping too many Americans out of work. 

"After more than 300 days in the majority, Republicans have failed to enact a jobs agenda -- and Americans can't wait any longer for us to act," she said, calling on Republicans to pass the president's jobs bill.

Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., a presidential candidate, said, "The only comfort today for millions of out of work Americans is that we are now one year away from Americans sending a clear message by replacing this president and his failed economic policies."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a frontrunner in the GOP presidential race, said "Obama's reckless spending and trillion dollar deficits are hurting this economy and stifling job growth."

"It is time once again to unleash the tremendous economic potential of the America people, but that can't happen until President Obama is defeated," he said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.