Advisers for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama sparred Sunday over who was to blame for the latest grim unemployment rate and how it will impact November’s election.
The latest employment report out Friday shows only 69,000 jobs were added during May – the fewest in a year, as the unemployment rate increased to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent in April.
Romney’s senior campaign advisor, Ed Gillespie, speaking on Fox News Sunday, called the policies created under Obama "hostile to job creators" and said he is confident Romney will win the election.
In particular, Gillespie pointed to what he called a "job-killing mandate" within Obama’s sweeping healthcare bill – a mandate he said was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost the economy 850,000 jobs.
“This is a hostile environment for job creation in our economy," said Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. "And that's why, frankly, it adds a sense of urgency in terms of this year's election to be able to turn things around because the only thing that's going to change it are changing the policies and that means changing the person in the White House."
But former Obama economic adviser, Steve Rattner, said that while “nobody is happy” with the latest jobs report, the country’s unemployment rate would be worse off without the policies implemented by Obama.
“I believe without the policies the president put in place we wouldn't have even this level of job creation today," Rattner said on Fox News Sunday.
Rattner stressed that Obama arrived in office “to find 700,000 jobs a month being lost in this country."
"Since early 2010, when the job picture began to recover, we've added over 4 million jobs in this country -- we’ve added jobs every month since then," he said.
Part of the problem, Rattner and other Democrats say, is a refusal by House Republicans to consider some of the proposals Obama has made to Congress, like giving small businesses a tax incentive to hire more workers.
Gillespie, however, countered that claim by saying, "The problem is not what the Congress hasn't done with Republicans in control of the House. The problem is what Democrats did do" during Obama's first two years in office. He said the passage of a stimulus package and health care overhaul is "part of what's stifling our economy today."
The economy is central to each candidate's argument -- Obama wants it to be a choice between his and Romney's economic visions; Romney wants it to be referendum on Obama's economic policies.
The economy, Obama conceded Friday, "is not growing as fast as we want it to." Romney, meanwhile, seized on the latest jobs figures to declare that the country appeared to be "moving backward."
Obama is counting on an unemployment trajectory that has fallen from a high of 10 percent in October 2009. The president likes to point to the 3.8 million jobs created since he became president, though 12.5 million people remain unemployed. He highlights the resurgence of the auto industry following government bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors.
Friday's report is a blow to Obama's re-election message, though the May numbers may end up doing more damage to Obama's short-term political standing than to the economy long-term.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.