O'HARA, Pa. – Mitt Romney told supporters during a campaign stop on Friday there is no reason to celebrate any unemployment rate that remains over 4 percent, seeking to brand the morning’s news that the jobless rate fell to 8.1 percent as not good enough.
“Normally that would be cause for celebration,” Romney said of the rate, which was down from 8.2 percent the previous month. “But in fact anything over 8 percent, anything near 8 percent, anything over 4 percent is not cause for celebration.”
He highlighted the fact that only 115,000 net new jobs were created, a lower figure than what economists had been predicting. And Romney said the unemployment rate only dropped because 340,000 people gave up looking for work.
Offering a prescription for his own job-creation methods, Romney promised not to “hire a bunch more people in the federal government.” He said President Obama had added 150,000 government employees. “Of course, you’re paying for them. That doesn’t lift the wages and create new jobs,” he told the audience.
It’s a sentiment that may play well in the Pittsburgh area, where he was courting voters, but not necessarily in the critical Virginia suburbs where Romney will need to mine votes from the thousands of federal employees that depend on the government for their livelihoods.
Romney’s vision for the economy—which includes the assertion that 500,000 jobs should be created each month during a recovery—might be more difficult to attain than he anticipates. Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the last time the unemployment rate fell below the 4 percent rate that Romney said would be cause for celebration was more than a decade ago, in December 2000. And Obama’s campaign was quick to note that the former Massachusetts governor was only able to lower his state’s unemployment rate to 4.7 percent during his time in office, in October 2006.
Notably absent from Romney’s side during the Pittsburgh event was former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Romney’s onetime fiercest rival for the GOP nomination, who dropped out of the presidential race on April 10. Romney and Santorum huddled privately for 90 minutes this morning in the offices of Santorum’s longtime strategist, John Brabender.
Santorum’s advisers—who have not yet spoken to the him about the meeting—billed it as a chance for the former senator to relay the concerns of the people who supported him during the primary. In particular, he will be looking for assurances that Romney is dedicated to eliminating the president’s health care law.
As expected, the meeting did not produce an endorsement, though Santorum appears to be inching closer. Last week he told CNN’s Piers Morgan that he was going to support the nominee of the party while acknowledging that that person would be Romney, but fell short of offering his full-throated support. One of the only other holdouts from the initial GOP field, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, endorsed Romney on Thursday, four months after she ended her own candidacy.