White House ’08: Unemployment on the rise, and candidates respond
Story by Chris Graham
Another key measure of economic performance appears to show the continued effects of slowdown.
The national unemployment rate rose four-tenths of a percent in August, topping the 6 percent mark, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment fell in the manufacturing and employment-services sectors, with gains in the mining and health-care sectors, and a slight gain in average hourly earnings of seven cents, or four-tenths of a percent.
To put those numbers into more understandable terms, the number of unemployed people grew by just shy of 600,000 in August, to 9.4 million people overall.
The most recent figures for employment in Virginia are for the month of July, which were released last week by the Virginia Employment Commission. The VEC data pegged unemployment in the Commonwealth at 4.4 percent in July, up from the 4.2 percent rate in August and the 3.1 percent rate of July 2007.
The national rate in August 2007 was 4.7 percent.
The report was released against the backdrop of the end of two weeks of conventioneering by Democrats and this week Republicans as the two major parties get ready for the fall presidential campaign. The John McCain campaign, in particular, would seem to be in the crosshairs in an election that could be defined by the economy, with voters in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll saying that they think Barack Obama would do a better job handling the economy by a 55 percent-to-36 percent margin.
McCain came out swinging in a public statement on the jobs report. “Unfortunately, while millions of Americans are gathering around the kitchen table and questioning how they can keep their homes, pay their medical bills and afford their children’s education, Washington has failed to act,” McCain said. “As I promised last night, I will fight for those that lost their jobs, savings, and real estate investments. Some Americans have been left behind in the changing economy, and it often seems your government hasn’t even noticed. We must prepare every worker for the jobs of tomorrow. We will use our community colleges to help train people for new opportunities in their communities. As president, I will enact a Jobs for America economic plan that creates jobs, helps small businesses, expands opportunities and opens markets to American goods. Washington must stand beside the American people, not in their way,” McCain said.
“Sadly there are those who believe that to grow this economy we must raise taxes, impose costly new mandates and isolate America from the global economy. When our economy is hurting, the last thing we should do is raise taxes as Barack Obama plans to do and has done. The American people cannot afford a Barack Obama presidency,” McCain said.
Obama shot back in a statement that corrected the misimpressions left by the McCain side on taxes and on economic development. “John McCain may believe that the fundamentals of our economy are ‘strong,’ but the working men and women I meet every day are working harder for less, the typical working age family’s income is down $2,000 since George Bush took office, and their purchasing power is as low as it’s been in a decade,” Obama said. “John McCain’s answer is more of the same: $200 billion in tax cuts to big corporations and oil companies, and not one dime of tax relief to more than 100 million middle-class families,” Obama said. “If I am president, I will cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families and provide an immediate $50 billion to struggling states so that they don’t have to cut back on health care and education and can rebuild roads and schools. That’s the change working families need right now,” Obama said.