Jobs Report Buoys Obama On The Campaign Trail

President Obama campaigned in Virginia and Ohio the same day that the U.S. Labor Department reported the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Another page turned today in the presidential campaign. After a day of debate analysis giving Mitt Romney a leg up, President Obama got some news he can play to his advantage - the jobs numbers, which show the unemployment rate dropped sharply to its lowest level since he took office, 7.8 percent.

And quickly, both candidates started the spin.

MITT ROMNEY: There were fewer new jobs created this month than last month and the unemployment rate, as you know, to this year has come down very, very slowly. But it's come down nonetheless.

BLOCK: We have more from Mitt Romney in a couple of minutes. First, to President Obama, who, of course, had a different take on that three-tenths of a percent drop.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We've made too much progress to return to the policies that led to the crisis in the first place.

BLOCK: NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president and he begins our coverage.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Unemployment of 8 percent or higher has been a political anchor for Mr. Obama for 43 consecutive months. Now, that chain is finally broken just as his bid for reelection enters the final sprint.

OBAMA: This morning, we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since I took office.

HORSLEY: That announcement drew a standing ovation from some in the president's audience at a campaign rally in northern Virginia.

OBAMA: More Americans entered the workforce, more people are getting jobs.

HORSLEY: Unlike the previous month, when unemployment dropped because people gave up looking for work, this latest report shows strong job growth. A separate survey of employers showed more modest job gains, but Mr. Obama knows those are the latest in a long string of gains and a big turnaround from four years ago.

OBAMA: After losing about 800,000 jobs a month when I took office, our businesses have now added 5.2 million new jobs over the past two and a half years.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama acknowledged millions of Americans are still looking for work, a central feature of his Republican challenger's message, but the president says, Governor Romney's economic prescriptions are not what the country needs.

OBAMA: Today's news certainly is not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points. It's a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now.

HORSLEY: By now, many voters' impressions of the economy are already locked in, but for those still on the fence, Mr. Obama's economic record now looks just a little bit better. Scott Horsley, NPR News, with the president in Cleveland.

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