Are you better off? Just 96,000 jobs added in August as 368,000 people LEAVE the workforce in bleak employment report dealing blow to Obama re-election hopes
•Lowest workforce participation rate since September 1981
•Jobless rate drops to 8.1 per cent but only because workforce shrinks
•President Barack Obama knew of figures before big speech
By Toby Harnden In Charlotte, North Carolina
PUBLISHED: 08:07 EST, 7 September 2012 | UPDATED: 09:04 EST, 7 September 2012
Just 96,000 American jobs were added in August in a bleak monthly jobs report as 368,000 left the workforce, bringing labour market participation down to its lowest level for 31 years and dealing a blow to President Barack Obama’s re-election chances.
The national unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 per cent, down from 8.2 per cent, but this was only because so many people gave up looking for work. If the participation rate had not dropped so precipitously, unemployment would have risen to 8.4 per cent.
Factory employment fell by the most in two years and temporary-help companies eliminated positions for the first time in five months. The 69.9 per cent labor force participation rate for men is at lowest level recorded since the US government began tracking it in 1948.
According to James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute, the unemployment rate would be 11.4 per cent if the labour force participation rate had remained what it was when Obama took office in January 2009.
President Barack Obama was made aware of the figures before he took the stage to deliver his prime-time address at the Democratic convention on Thursday night, which could account for his sometimes grim demeanour as he spoke.
Bleak: Barack Obama spoke without the exuberance that marked his earlier campaigns at the DNC speech last night
In a biting statement, Romney said: 'If last night was the party, this morning is the hangover. For every net new job created, nearly four Americans gave up looking for work entirely. This is more of the same for middle class families who are suffering through the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.
'After 43 straight months of unemployment above eight per cent, it is clear that President Obama just hasn't lived up to his promises and his policies haven't worked. We aren’t better off than they were four years ago. My plan for a stronger middle class will create 12 million new jobs by the end of my first term. America deserves new leadership that will get our economy moving again.'
On Thursday night, Obama laid out his case for being re-elected to a second term by comparing himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who won an unprecedented four presidential elections and led America to recovery after the Great Depression.
The grim economic data came as Obama and Romney were deadlocked in the national opinion polls in a race that has been too close to call for many months. It was the last opportunity for either man to use a defined 'moment' to change the trajectory of the race before the three presidential debates in October.
'And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.'
Early in the speech, he lit into his opponents, saying all the Republicans have 'to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last 30 years: "Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!"'
Obama's address, switched from a 74,000-seater stadium to a 20,000-seater arena ostensibly because of the weather but amid indications there were problems filling seats, brought the three-day democratic convention to a close.
Judging by the reaction of the crowd, Obama's speech paled into insignificance compared to the rollicking address by former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday night and the emotional, affecting speech by his wife Michelle on Tuesday. It was also not as rousing as Vice President Joe Biden's speech just beforehand.
Obama is attempting to frame the election not as a referendum on his four-year term, during which unemployment has risen to 8.3 per cent, leaving more than 23 million Americans out of work, but as a choice between him and Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee.
'On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties,' he said. 'It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.'
Recalling his speech at the 2004 convention, he said: 'Eight years later, that hope has been tested - by the cost of war; by one of the worst economic crises in history; and by political gridlock that’s left us wondering whether it’s still possible to tackle the challenges of our time.'
He needed more time, he insisted, to fix things. 'I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear,' the president said. 'You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.'
Although his demeanour hardly showed it, Obama tried to strike an optimistic note by saying: 'But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. I’m asking you to chose that future.'
Comparison: Barack Obama invoked the spirit of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who led America out of the Great Depression
In an earnest request for four more years, he said: 'But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place.
'And I’m asking you to choose that future. I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country – goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation.
'That’s what we can do in the next four years, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.'
This November's election, he argued, will represent 'the clearest choice of any time in a generation' between two different visions.
'Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace – decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come.
Roosevelt dominated American politics for the 12 years of his presidency and beyond. He is commonly recognised as the greatest Democratic president and, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, one of the three greatest American presidents.
Not only did he bring America out of the depression, he oversaw the introduction of the New Deal social programmes, laid the foundations for the United Nations and led the country in the Second World War after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, dying just when victory was in sight.
Obama also laid out a series of 'goals for America' in a second term. These will include creating a million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016, doubling exports by the end of 2014 and cutting net oil imports in half by 2020.