Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Friday that the nation’s improving unemployment rate actually means that “more and more Americans” have simply decided they don’t want to work anymore, “giving up and dropping out” of the job hunt.
“The unemployment rate, as you know, this year has come down very, very slowly, but it’s come down nonetheless,” he told voters in Abingdon, Virginia on Friday. “The reason it’s come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work. And if you just drop out of the workforce, if you just give up and say, ‘Look, I can’t go back to work. I’m just going to stay home.’ If you just drop out altogether, why, you’re no longer part of the employment statistics, so it looks like unemployment is getting better.”
He added that the “real reality” is that unemployment would be closer to 11 percent if those workers were accounted for. However, BLS statistics show that the labor force participation rate has only dropped by 2 percent since Obama took office, which doesn’t come close to covering the spread in Romney’s claim.
The specter of economic growth reemerged in the presidential race Friday morning with a surprisingly positive jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which found that the nation’s unemployment rate is now at 7.8 percent, which is lower than when President Barack Obama took office.
Republicans and the Romney campaign immediately reacted with skepticism and disgust. Jack Welch, a former CEO of General Electric who’s supporting Romney, exclaimed on Twitter that the numbers were “unbelievable.”
“[T]hese Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers,” he wrote. Rep. Allen West (R-FL) echoed the sentiment, tweeting: “I agree with former CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here.” Neither man presented any evidence, leading Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to tell CBS News that their allegations are “ludicrous.”
Romney also appears to be agreeing with members of his own party who’ve embraced the mantle of what The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent is calling “unemployment truthers,” but the former Massachusetts governor’s response adds another dimension to it that his opponents will likely seize upon.
Though more than 8 million jobs were lost during the recession, about half happening on President George W. Bush’s watch, the BLS shows that the U.S. economy added jobs every single month since March 2010, accounting more more than 5.2 million new jobs in the private sector as of September 2012. That hasn’t influenced the overall unemployment rate as much as the administration would like largely due to massive job losses in the public sector triggered by plunging government revenues — a detail often neglected by the president when he speaks about his jobs record.
For Romney, attacking Americans for being too lazy to look for work may not be the best line to employ, especially given the damage he dealt his campaign by telling a group of big dollar donors in California that he thinks that 47 percent of the country is “dependent upon government” and “believe that they are victims,” explaining that his job “is not to worry about those people.”
In the unedited video of Romney’s secretly-recorded remarks, he goes on to tell one supporter that he does not believe campaigning on the facts will be effective, saying he’s more keen on making an impact through advertising and the debates. Both Romney and running mate Paul Ryan later said that those remarks were poorly stated but that they stand by them regardless.
Romney, however, took all that back on Thursday night, telling Fox News Republican talk host Sean Hannity that his comments were “completely wrong.”
This video was broadcast by CNN on Friday, October 5, 2012.