US jobless rate up in blow to Obama re-election
The dramatically weak numbers signaled that the much hoped-for recovery in the job market has stalled, but they fueled new speculation that the Federal Reserve will step in with a fresh round of stimulus for the economy.
The jobs gain was the smallest since May 2011, when 54,000 jobs were added, and less than half of what analysts had forecast.
The jobless rate ticked up to 8.2 percent, against expectations that it would hold steady at April’s 8.1 percent. It was the first rise since June 2011, when it climbed to 9.1 percent from 9.0 percent.
“There are no easy explanations for May; the numbers suggest a far weaker economy than do other recent data,” said Sophia Koropeckyj at Moody’s Analytics.
“The numbers do not bode well for the president’s reelection,” she added.
The data came just five months ahead of the November 6 presidential election election amid a campaign dominated by concerns about the slow, fragile recovery.
The world’s largest economy slowed from an annual growth rate of 3.0 percent in the final quarter of 2011 to a 1.9 percent pace in the first quarter, too weak a pace to dent unemployment.
Obama argues that his Democratic administration pulled the economy back from the brink of another Great Depression after the 2008 Wall Street financial meltdown.
Speaking at a Honeywell factory in the Minneapolis area, Obama said the American economy was facing “serious headwinds” such as the eurozone debt crisis.
But he also recalled how bad the economy was when he took office. “We knew it would take time,” the president said of the recovery. “We knew there would be ups and downs along the way.”
But Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney called the latest news a “harsh indictment” of Obama’s presidency.
“Their policies have made it harder for the economy to recover,” he said in an interview with CNBC.
The bad jobs numbers will focus even more attention than usual Thursday, during Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony to Congress on the economic outlook, for clues to a shift toward more stimulus.
Jeffrey Rosen at Briefing.com said the report confirmed that the labor market has reversed direction after showing “so much
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