(Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the unemployment rate remained at 8.2 percent in June, President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney responded by trading blame for the state of the country's economy.
"We've got to grow the economy even faster. And we've got to put even more people back to work. Our mission is just not to get back to where we were before the crisis," Obama said at a campaign rally in Ohio Friday after the report showed the U.S. economy added 80,000 jobs in June but the unemployment rate remained at 8.2 percent.
"The problem is we've got a stalemate in Washington," Reuters quoted Obama as saying. "This election is about how we break that stalemate."
However, Romney, who was campaigning in New Hampshire, said Obama's policies had not been successful "in reigniting this economy, in putting people back to work, in opening up manufacturing plants across the country."
Obama highlighted only private sector job numbers, saying, "We learned this morning that our businesses created 84,000 new jobs and that overall means that businesses have created 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months ... That's a step in the right direction."
However, House Speaker John A. Boehner said the Labor Department report shows the private sector "clearly isn't 'doing fine' and that President Obama's policies have failed." The president, he added, "bet on a failed 'stimulus' spending binge that led to 41 months of unemployment above 8 percent. He bet on a government takeover of health care that's driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire."
The jobs report gave Romney the opportunity to divert the focus away from the issue of health care, especially after last week's Supreme Court ruling found ObamaCare constitutional.
The former Massachusetts governor said the president's policies "have not gotten America working again, and the president's gonna have to stand up and take responsibility for it." Romney added, "I know he's been planning on going across the country and celebrating what he calls 'Forward.' Well, forward doesn't look a lot like forward to the millions and millions of families that are struggling today in this great country."
America can do better, Romney said, and "this kick in the gut has got to end."
Democrats, meanwhile, joined Obama in putting blame on Republicans.
"Today's report is further evidence that Congress should be focusing on creating jobs and helping the middle class, not re-fighting old battles for political gain," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. "Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues have decided they would rather focus their energy on political grandstanding and empty, partisan exercises that will not create a single job. As this report clearly shows, it's time to move on and focus on jobs."