Romney, Obama Spin July Jobs Report Differently

Job creation in July was better than in the previous months and better than expected. But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney focused on the still-high unemployment rate in responding to the report today. President Obama said the report was a sign of progress in the economy.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. A new report out today shows the best jobs growth in several months, but the unemployment rate stuck above eight percent - went up, not down. From opposite sides of the country, President Obama and Mitt Romney each reacted, playing up the parts of the report they liked.

NPR's Brian Naylor has our story from Las Vegas, where Romney campaigned today.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Speaking this morning at a North Las Vegas truck body shop, Romney wasted no time jumping on the July job numbers. With a white flatbed truck behind him, Romney said middle class families deserve better than 42 consecutive months of unemployment above eight percent.

MITT ROMNEY: Today, we just got a new number from the unemployment report and it's another hammer blow to the struggling middle class families of America because the president has not had policies that put American families back to work. I do. I'll put them in place and get America working again.

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NAYLOR: President Obama, meanwhile, saw the picture a little differently. Rather than focusing on the 8.3 percent unemployment rate, which was a slight increase from the previous month, the president preferred to look at the 163,000 new jobs created in July. That was a bit more than analysts were expecting. Speaking at the White House and flanked by a group of what he called hardworking middle class Americans, he conceded more needs to be done.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let's acknowledge we've still got too many folks out there who are looking for work. We've got more work to do on their behalf, not only to reclaim all the jobs that were lost during the recession, but also to reclaim the kind of financial security that too many Americans have felt was slipping away from them for too long.

NAYLOR: The monthly jobs numbers have become a short form report card for the economy, the key issue of the presidential campaign. Romney has campaigned the last two days in Colorado and Nevada, touting his plan for a stronger middle class. Speaking to reporters in Las Vegas, he left no doubt who he holds responsible for the continued struggles of the economy.

ROMNEY: I think it's an extraordinary failure of policy, a failure of leadership and I think it's a moral failure for a country as successful and prosperous as our own to go now four years in a mode which feels to many people like a recession. I think there are some who have said if you're unemployed, it's a depression.

NAYLOR: Romney declined to say whether he thought the economy was in a recession, but said it sure feels like it for the 23 million Americans he said were jobless or underemployed. Romney was also asked about charges from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that Romney has not paid taxes in recent years. Romney said he's paid taxes every year, a lot of taxes. Still, he says he will not release any of his income tax returns for years prior to 2010.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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