In the days leading up to the release of the June jobs report, economists feared that the month's unemployment figure would show little change. They were right as far as the national rate is concerned. The African-American unemployment rate, however, rose to 14.4 percent, from 13.6 percent in May. The national rate was unchanged from 8.2 percent and only 84,000 new jobs were added.
On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that applications for unemployment benefits fell by 14,000 in the week ending June 30 to 374,000, its lowest level since mid-May. Experts often consider such drop-offs good news because they signal that there have been fewer layoffs. But pessimists say that it actually means that people have lost hope and have abandoned their job searches.
On the eve of the report, Thomas Boston, an economist at Georgia Tech University, speculated that the news might be better than expected but also predicted that the Black unemployment rate would rise. If indeed the economy is improving, he believes the old adage "first fired, last hired" will probably affect Black unemployment rates.
The June unemployment figure, Boston added, is very important because it will help determine whether the past three months' disappointing numbers were a blip or a trend. It also will help set the tone for the presidential election, he warned, and could make the political landscape for President Obama very bumpy.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney interrupted his weeklong family vacation to denounce Obama's economic policies.
"This kick in the gut has to end. The president's policies have not gotten America working again and the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it," Romney said, adding that if elected he would reduce unemployment to six percent by the end of his first term.
But in a video unearthed by the Democratic research group American Bridge, in response to a question about slow job growth in Massachusetts, then-Gov. Romney argued that it takes time to spur job creation.
"If you are going to suggest to me that somehow the day I got elected, somehow jobs should immediately turn around, well that would be silly," he said in 2006. "It takes a while to get things turned around."
Obama has spent the past two days on a bus tour of the critical battleground states Ohio and Pennsylvania during which he has hailed his administration's achievements and argued that Americans will have to make a choice this fall between two fundamentally different views about how to move the nation forward.
In remarks delivered at an Ohio elementary school, the president said the addition of 84,000 jobs is a step in the right direction but not good enough.
"You know, we learned this morning that our businesses created 84,000 new jobs last month. And that, overall, means that businesses have created 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months, including 500,000 new manufacturing jobs. That's a step in the right direction," he said. "But we can't be satisfied, because our goal was never to just keep on working to get back to where we were back in 2007. I want to get back to a time when middle-class families and those working to get into the middle class have some basic security. That's our goal. So we've got to grow the economy even faster."
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