The economy has added just 139,000 jobs a month this year, a slower pace than last year. It takes roughly 200,000 jobs a month to shrink unemployment. In perspective, the economy was bleeding hundreds of thousands of jobs when Obama took office, but that does not comfort the jobless today.
The new results only sharpened the competing and defining storylines of the election. Romney says the poor pace of job growth demands that Obama be thrown out of office, while the incumbent implores voters to compare the candidates' economic visions and see why only his would help the middle class.
If the jobs numbers did hang over Obama, he did not show it, smiling and waving during rallies in Portsmouth, N.H., and Iowa City, Iowa. In both cities he returned to the themes of his convention speech, poking fun again at Romney while shrinking his competitor's economic theory to one idea.
"Tax cuts. Tax cuts. Cut some more regulations. Oh, and more tax cuts," Obama told the thousands who packed the grounds at Portsmouth's Strawbery Banke Museum. "Tax cuts when times are good. Tax cuts when times are bad. Tax cuts to help you lose a few extra pounds. Tax cuts to help you improve your love life. It'll cure anything."
Romney was biting as well.
On repeated occasions Friday, he challenged Obama's competency, lumping together the jobs report and Obama's prime-time convention address.
"There was nothing in the speech that gives confidence that the president knows what he's doing when it comes to jobs," Romney told Fox News.
It was a rejoinder to Thursday night, when Obama stood before a cheering crowd and essentially put the candidates on different levels.
"The times have changed, and so have I," Obama said. "I'm no longer just a candidate. I'm the president."