WASHINGTON - The final set of monthly jobs data before Tuesday's presidential election provided both campaigns fodder to drive home their closing arguments on jobs and the economy, with President Barack Obama's team arguing the numbers show the economy on the rebound while Mitt Romney's team claiming it shows an economy still struggling.
The GOP nominee spotlighted the unemployment rate rising to 7.9%, up from 7.8% a month ago. While the rate is lower than the benchmark 8%, it's higher than it was when President Barack Obama took office in 2008.
"Today's increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill," Romney wrote in a statement soon after the report was released. "The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23 million Americans struggling for work."
Romney used the report to push ahead to next week's election, saying it makes the choice even clearer for voters who are still undecided in their presidential preference.
"On Tuesday, America will make a choice between stagnation and prosperity," Romney wrote. "For four years, President Obama's policies have crushed America's middle class. For four years, President Obama has told us that things are getting better and that we're making progress. For too many American families, those words ring hollow."
"When I'm president, I'm going to make real changes that lead to a real recovery, so that the next four years are better than the last," he concluded.
Obama's team honed in on the 171,000 jobs that were created in October, according to Friday's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number, which exceeded economists' expectations, gave Obama and his surrogates an opportunity to tout an economy on the upswing, and to advocate for another four years of Obama's economic policies.
"While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression," Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote in a blog post on the White House website. "It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007."
Both Obama and Romney have events scheduled for later Friday morning, and both were expected to address the jobs report.
Candy Crowley, CNN's chief political correspondent, said Friday the report was unlikely to sway many voters since it largely plays into what the candidates have been saying for months on the campaign trail.
"This is fuel to the same fire," Crowley said. "Both the president and the governor will come out and say, you see? I told you all along this was so, and this report is exactly what I was trying to tell you about."
Sheila Bair, the former chairman of the FDIC, said that since the numbers already played into the campaigns' economic narratives, the effect would be minimal on Election Day.
"I think the reality is the unemployment rate is now higher than it was when Mr. Obama took office, so that's going to give Mr. Romney a talking point, but the jobs creation number is a good one, so I think it's a wash and won't have much impact," Bair said on CNN.