Published July 06, 2012
Four more chances.
That's what President Obama has left to prove he's helped turn the economy around -- with just four more monthly jobs reports remaining before the November election. Those reports could determine whether he gets four more years.
The last three employment snapshots released by the Labor Department have been persistently weak, and marked a distinct slowdown from earlier in the year. In the latest report, the department said employers added a meager 80,000 jobs in June, leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 8.2 percent. The number of jobs added in June was lower than expected, and rounded out a poor second quarter for 2012.
The average number of monthly jobs created in the first quarter of the year was 226,000 -- by contrast, that average in the second quarter was just 75,000.
With the economy typically polling as the top issue in the 2012 race, Obama is now under heavy pressure to demonstrate a turnaround sometime between July and October. A cascade of weak jobs reports between now and then would not bode well for his chances, though the president thus far has kept the edge over Mitt Romney in many battleground state polls.
As far as Romney's concerned, the president has run out of time. Speaking from New Hampshire Friday, the Republican candidate said Obama does not "have a plan" for the economy, and called the latest report a "kick in the gut."
"The president's policies have clearly not been successful in re-igniting this economy," Romney said. "It doesn't have to be this way."
Romney faulted the Obama administration for the country's regulatory burden and its high corporate tax rate -- though that rate was not set by Obama, who has actually proposed cutting it.
Obama, meanwhile, was courting blue-collar voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania on his first 2012 campaign bus tour, and took time out during a stop in Poland, Ohio, to address the June numbers. On the upside, the president noted that over 28 months the economy has added 4.4 million payroll jobs. "That's a step in the right direction," Obama said.
But the president stressed he wasn't "satisfied" and wants to make sure middle-class families have "basic securities."
"We've got to grow the economy even faster, and we've got to put even more people back to work," Obama said. He went on to criticize Republicans for peddling a philosophy, he said, of less regulation and trickle-down wealth.
"I think it's wrong," Obama said. "It's not a smart theory."
The president took heat last month for the worst jobs report in a year -- Friday's report was only modestly better, opening up heated criticism from Republicans.
For the U.S. economy, the only good news came in the form of incremental changes. The average work week grew to 34.5 hours from 34.4 in May, boosting many workers' paychecks. And average hourly wages rose 6 cents to $23.50.
But on a whole, none of these changes are enough to fuel an economic recovery. While professional and business services saw the best growth in June, other industries like construction and hospitality saw almost no change in June. In the second quarter of 2012, job growth has slowed across almost every industry.
A weaker job market has made consumers less confident. They have pulled back on spending, even though gas prices have plunged.
High unemployment could shift momentum to Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. An Associated Press-GfK poll released last month found that more than half of those surveyed disapproved of Obama's handling of the economy.
Dismal June job figures could also prompt the Federal Reserve to take further action to try to boost the economy. The Fed last month downgraded its economic outlook for 2012. It predicted growth of just 1.9 percent to 2.4 percent for the year and little change in the unemployment rate.
Job gains in April and May were little changed from the department's previous estimates.
About one-third of the jobs gained in June were in temporary services. Manufacturing added 11,000, its ninth straight month of gains. But growth in factory jobs slowed sharply in the second quarter compared to the first. Health care added 13,000 jobs and financial services gained 5,000. Retailers, transportation firms and government cut jobs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.