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Thread: Poor Jobs Figure a Sharp Blow to Bush - Analysts

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    Post Poor Jobs Figure a Sharp Blow to Bush - Analysts

    Poor Jobs Figure A Sharp
    Blow To Bush - Analysts
    By Alan Elsner

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Disappointing job creation figures issued Friday were a sharp blow to President Bush, making it much more difficult for him to argue on the campaign trail that the economy has turned the corner, analysts and pollsters said.

    The Labor Department reported Friday that U.S. employers added a meager 32,000 workers to payrolls last month, stunning Wall Street economists who had forecast a gain of 228,000. The department also revised job figures down by 61,000 for May and June.

    "This is not good news for the president, especially since his approval ratings on the economy had begun to inch up a little to around 47 or 48 percent," said Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center.

    "It also comes at a very bad time, just when voters have started to pay closer attention to the conditions they see around them when they consider whether Bush deserves another four years," he said.

    While White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president was not satisfied with the jobs report, he attempted to put a good face on it. "Today's employment report shows our economy is moving forward and it also is a reminder that we're in a changing economy," McClellan said.

    Bush's Democratic challenger John Kerry blamed the low job creation number on Bush's economic policies. "The president keeps saying we've turned the corner. But unfortunately, today's job numbers further demonstrate that our economy may be taking a U-turn instead.'

    The economy has lost a net 1.1 million jobs since Bush took office, although he can point to 1.5 million jobs created since August 2003. But this latest jobs figure makes it almost impossible to make up the net loss before the November election.

    Adding to the administration's woes, crude oil prices are at a record high, which will soon be reflected at gas stations and throughout the economy.

    "Pocketbook issues remain central to the way people think about their voting decisions, even in a time of war. This kind of figure could have a big impact," said Karlyn Bowman of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

    Polls show a tight election with Kerry possibly a nose ahead. In 1992, economic issues sank Bush's father, former President George Bush, in his campaign against Bill Clinton. But Bowman said that comparison should not be overdrawn.


    In 1992, she said, the economy was just beginning to emerge from a painful recession. This year, the younger Bush has argued that his massive tax cuts prevented a deeper recession on his watch and that things were getting better.

    In Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, Bush said: "The economy is strong. There's more work to do. But remember, we created 1.5 million new jobs in the last year."

    Kerry leads Bush by around 6 to 8 points in most polls when voters are asked who could best handle the economy. In 1992, Clinton led the elder Bush by a much greater margin.

    Still, pollster John Zogby said not much was going well for Bush on the economy. "People are not feeling job growth in their communities. The president's approval ratings on the economy are stuck in the low 40s in my polling, which is not high enough for him to feel any confidence," he said.

    Some analysts fault Kerry for not seizing on economic issues aggressively enough at last week's Democratic National Convention and said he needed to make a stronger case. "The reality is, Kerry has not picked up on this opportunity very much. Now he has real ammunition but he needs to show a clear alternative," said political scientist Robert Holsworth of Virginia Commonwealth University.

    The figures are likely to infuse Democrats with renewed confidence they can win many of the highly competitive swing states in the Midwest, America's industrial heartland.

    Said University of Texas political scientist Bruce Buchanan: "This is a golden opportunity for Kerry to seize the upper hand."

    Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited.

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