THE RACE: Hiring slowdown could vex Obama plans
The economy isn't cooperating with President Barack Obama's re-election schedule.
For the third year in a row, an early spurt of growth has started to fade in the spring.
Obama planned back-to-back political rallies Saturday in Ohio and Virginia, his first official ones of the campaign. They are battleground states he won in 2008 but where he is more closely challenged this year. Jobs are a key issue in both.
The economy added 115,000 jobs in April, not even enough to keep up with population growth. The jobless rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.2 percent, but mainly because people left the workforce.
Look back to 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was seeking a second term. As now, the nation was emerging from deep recession. But the job growth for April 1984 was a solid 363,000, the unemployment rate 7.7 percent, down from a peak of 10.8 percent. Recovery momentum helped propel Reagan to a landslide over Democrat Walter Mondale.
But now, it doesn't look like the economy will turn the corner in time to be much help to Obama in what is shaping up as a tight race.
His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, not surprisingly, saw only gloom. "We seem to be slowing down, not speeding up," he said, calling Friday's jobs report "terrible and very disappointing," a reflection of failed policies.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director and a top 2008 adviser to Republican John McCain, summed it up as "not many jobs, not much income, and not enough hope for over 300,000 workers who gave up looking."
Obama's team searched hard Friday for something upbeat to say, but there wasn't much there.
Alan Krueger, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers saw "a picture of an economy healing." But, he was quick to add, "We need faster job growth."