NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Although the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, Mitt Romney is not planning to give up one of his favorite talking points – that the United States saw “43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent” under the Obama presidency.
After it was announced on Friday that the unemployment fell below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years, Mitt Romney struggled to come up with a new way to talk about the jobless numbers.
He first tried to blame the drop in the rate on “the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work” – an inaccurate assessment. Then, he shifted his focus to a new number – 11%.
‘If the…participation of our adults in the workforce were the same as at the time (Obama) got elected, why our unemployment rate would be about 11%,” Romney said while campaigning in St Petersburg, Florida, on Friday evening, almost 12 hours after the new unemployment rate was announced.
But neither argument seemed to resonate quite as strongly as the old talking point, and so Romney decided to bring it back – but with a twist.
“We've seen the slowest recovery from a recession in history,” Romney said here Monday to a crowd listening to him in the pouring rain. “As a matter of fact, I just read that if you look back 60 years, and you look at all the months we had with unemployment about 8 percent before President Obama, there were 39 months in all 60 years with unemployment above 8 percent. With this president, there've been 43 months under one president alone. He does not understand what it takes to create a real recovery. I do.”
The Romney campaign cited records from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that since 1948, the jobless rate was at or above 8 percent for all of 1975 and from November 1981 to January 1984 – a total of 39 months. After Obama took office, the rate went above 8 percent in February 2009 and stayed there until last month, for a total of 43 months.
The 60-year time frame does not include the Great Depression, when unemployment was above 10 percent for more than a decade. Economists have said the recession the country is digging out of now was the worst since the Depression.