May 4 (Bloomberg) -- Mitt Romney raised the bar for what comprises an unemployment rate worth celebrating as he used the latest jobs figures to criticize President Barack Obama’s management of the economy while campaigning in Pennsylvania.
“Anything over four percent is not cause for celebration,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said inside a warehouse of a specialized cement and corrosion-resistant materials manufacturer in Pittsburgh.
“I’m going to get America working again,” Romney told supporters. “I’m going to get America strong again.”
The former Massachusetts governor called it a “sad time in America for people who want work and can’t find jobs.”
Employers in the U.S. added fewer workers than forecast in April while the jobless rate declined as people left the labor force, underscoring concern that the recovery by the world’s largest economy may be losing speed.
Payrolls climbed 115,000, the smallest gain in six months, after a revised 154,000 rise in March that was greater than initially estimated, according to Labor Department figures released today in Washington. The median estimate of 85 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 160,000 advance.
The jobless rate fell to a three-year low of 8.1 percent, from 8.2 percent in March.
While the jobless rate has declined since its peak during Obama’s term of 10 percent in October 2009, the drop has been slow and halting. It was stuck at about 9 percent through the first three quarters of last year.
Obama’s campaign responded to Romney’s speech by calling it “filled with dishonesty and distortions” about the president’s record and his own.
Romney “can’t change the fact that the president brought the economy back from the brink of another Depression and we’ve now seen over 4.2 million private-sector jobs created over the last 26 months,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.
Referring to Romney’s business experience as a private equity executive, Smith said “he profited handsomely by laying off workers and outsourcing American jobs.”
Pushing Jobs Bill
Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said private payroll growth shows the economy is on the mend. More needs to be done, he said in a statement, and Obama will keep pressing Congress to pass the components of the jobs proposal he laid out last year that have been rejected by Republicans.
“Despite adverse shocks that have created headwinds for economic growth, the economy has added private sector jobs for 26 straight months, for a total of 4.25 million payroll jobs over that period,” Krueger said.
Romney, speaking to several hundred people crowded into the warehouse, said Obama has taken repeated actions that strained the free enterprise system.
“We have a president who is continuing to push against economic freedom,” he said. “The right course for America is not to repress freedom, but to encourage freedom.”
Romney said his economic game plan would include slowing the growth of the federal government.
“One thing I know I’m not going to do is go hire a bunch more people in the federal government,” he said.
Speaking in a region that mines coal, Romney said Obama has made the industry’s existence more challenging.
“He sure doesn’t like coal,” Romney said. “He’s making it harder for the people to mine coal and harder for enterprises to use it.”
Proposals by the Environmental Protection Agency under Obama to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants have earned criticism from the industry and plaudits from environmental advocacy groups.
Obama is leading Romney in Pennsylvania 47 percent to 39 percent, a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday shows. The survey was taken April 25-May 1 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.9 percentage points.
In an opinion article in today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, Romney welcomed Obama to Ohio ahead of the president’s planned campaign visit to the state tomorrow.
“Mr. President, your promises now ring hollow,” Romney wrote. “If you have brought new ideas to Ohio for creating jobs, why have you waited three years to unveil them? Have you suddenly had a revelation, or is it because 2012 is an election year? Whatever the case, what you are offering Ohio now is too little, too late.”
Before his campaign event, Romney met privately with former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who emerged as his main rival in the race for the Republican nomination. Santorum, hasn’t yet formally endorsed Romney, ended his campaign on April 10. Romney’s campaign had no immediate comment about today’s meeting.
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