There are still too many Americans looking for work, President Barack Obama said Friday in reaction to July's jobs numbers, renewing his demand that Congress extend expiring tax cuts for most U.S. households.
Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, speaking at the same time in the swing state of Nevada, highlighted a report showing the economy added 163,000 jobs in July as an indictment of the president's economic policies.
"These numbers are not just statistics," Romney said. "These are real people, really suffering, having hard times."
The monthly report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has assumed a heightened level of political significance for an election in which the economy and jobs is the top issue. While job creation in July matched private forecasters' estimates, the unemployment rate ticked upward to 8.3 percent.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
President Barack Obama talks about taxes, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012, in the Old Executive Office building of the White House complex.
Obama hailed the positive jobs figures in the report and argued his administration had presided over the creation of 4.5 million jobs since January of 2009.
"But let's acknowledge: we've still got too many folks out there who are looking for work," he said at the White House. "We've got more work to do on their behalf."
The president used the occasion to push again for lawmakers to renew the so-called "Bush tax cuts" for households with incomes under $250,000 per year, and individual income under $200,000. The Democratic-held Senate passed a bill to that effect last week, but House Republicans defeated it in a vote on Wednesday.
Without referencing Romney specifically, Obama pointed to a report issued by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which argued a plan like the presumptive GOP nominee's would effectively raise taxes on the middle class since a number of deductions favored by middle class households could be eliminated. (The Romney campaign called this report a "joke.")
"The people standing behind me should not have to pay more so the wealthiest can pay less," Obama said in reference to a group standing behind him during his remarks. "That's not top-down economics, that's upside-down economics."
The dueling presidential candidates' rhetoric served as a case study, though, of the alternative interpretations of July's new employment figures.
Romney, in a statement earlier in the morning and in his Las Vegas-area remarks, called the jobs report "another hammer blow" for the middle class.
Speaking at the Executive Office Building in Washington D.C., President Obama talks about the July jobs numbers, and urges the House to pass pending tax cut legislation.
The former Bain Capital executive stressed his private sector experience as a chief qualifier, and went so far as to promise the creation of 12 million jobs during his first term should he be elected.
The setting in Nevada, which has been among the hardest-hit states in the recession and where the housing market has struggled to recover, was no accident for Romney. Nevada is set to be one of the handful of states that could determine the Electoral College winner in November.
Romney's speech also allowed him to relitigate Obama's "you didn't build that" gaffe from last month, in which the president seemed to suggest that business owners owed some of their success to the government.
"The president has said we’re taking him out of context, but then you go look at the rest of his speech -- it’s on YouTube -- the context is worse than the quote," Romney said, earning him some of the loudest applause from the crowd.