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Romney downplays jobs report in VA rally


ABINGDON, VA -- Mitt Romney downplayed the importance of new, positive jobs data released Friday, telling a crowd of supporters here in rural Virginia the drop in the unemployment rate had more to do with workers dropping out of the labor force than with any real expansion of hiring.

"There were fewer new jobs created this month than last month," Romney said of today's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which showed 114,000 jobs created in September, and revised the August number up to 142,000 new jobs.

Steve Helber / AP

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures during a rally in Abingdon, Va., Friday, Oct. 5, 2012.

The Republican presidential nominee's tack broke from a now-monthly tradition of seizing on weak employment reports to portray President Barack Obama as ineffective in turning around a struggling US economy, Mitt Romney downplayed the importance of today's more positive labor data,

"The unemployment rate as you noted this year has come down very, very slowly, but it’s come down none the less.  The reason it’s come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work," Romney continued. "If the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent. That’s the real reality of what’s happening out there."

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The report from the Bureau of Labor statistics shows workforce participation remained essentially flat in September, at around 64 percent, with an uptick in workers who took part time jobs for economic reasons, such as not being able to get full time employment. Updward-revised jobs numbers from July and August also contributed to the lower jobless rate.

While workforce participation has generally declined over the course of the past four years, workforce participation actually inched upward last month – meaning a drop in those seeking work wasn’t directly attributable to the lower unemployment rate last month.

Economist Greg Ip breaks down the September Jobs Report.

But if the jobs report itself was a secondary focus in Romney's remarks today, the economy was once again front and center, with Romney telling some 3,300 supporters gathered here that he could grow the economy faster than Obama, and promising brighter economic days ahead.

"My priority is creating jobs," Romney said. "I’ll help small business do that, with everything I can do. Now we can do better. We don’t have to stay on the path we’ve been on. We can do better."

"When I’m president of the United States – that unemployment rate is going to come down not because people are giving up and dropping out of the workforce but because we’re creating more jobs," Romney said later. "I will create jobs and get America working again!" 

The Obama campaign challenged Romney economic plans in a statement released shortly after the event concluded.

"In fact, independent economists say his plans would not create jobs, could slow the recovery, and could actually cost us two million jobs over the next two years. The American people want to move forward, not back,” Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith wrote.