COMMENTARY | Even though the unemployment rate released Friday rose from 7.8 to 7.9 percent in October, Mitt Romney and the GOP refuse to see the reason why. The private sector added 171,000 jobs and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says "the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged."
Americans may listen to the rhetoric of Romney and the Republicans who decided to make lemons out of lemonade. CNN reports Romney said at a campaign stop in Wisconsin, "Unemployment today is higher than when Barack Obama took office." Speaker of the House John Boehner further blamed Obama for "four years of persistently high unemployment and long-term joblessness."
Yet Reuters reveals the reason for the slight uptick in the unemployment rate -- more workers entered the labor pool after giving up looking for work. There may be two reasons for this uptick in people looking for jobs. First revolves around last month's jobs report in which unemployment fell below 8 percent for the first time in three years. Second is that the winter holidays are approaching and retailers will hire lots of temporary workers for the shopping season.
The job figures aren't all rosy. Unemployment for blacks rose to 14.3 percent, while the rate decreased or stayed the same for everyone else. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, released a statement for all Republicans saying, "Not only is the jobless rate going up, but as more Americans lose hope altogether, the 'real' unemployment rate is now 14.6 percent."
So, which is it? Reuters says more people are looking for work and entering the labor force. The official Republican response says more Americans are losing hope.
Of course, Obama's slogan four years ago revolved around hope. The GOP statement, along with Obama's assertion that the United States has made "real progress" in Ohio (according to the CNN piece), mean the jobs numbers are being used as campaign fodder four days before the general election.
If "progress" means the unemployment numbers improving a little bit, then Obama is correct. The Republicans claim the president hasn't done enough. Using history as a comparison, even a Republican president in the early 1980s did little to cause unemployment rates to come down. From 1980 to 1986, the unemployment rate was at or above seven percent. In 1979, unemployment was at 5.8 percent. President Jimmy Carter was in the White House until the election of Ronald Reagan.
If contemporary Republicans are going to slam Obama for not turning things around fast enough, the current administration can't be faulted for a slow recovery over four years. Reagan took six years to turn things around and Democrats had to deal with that situation.
To further the GOP's history lesson, unemployment was at 8.9 percent or higher from 1930 to 1941. Those years featured a Democratic president and Democratic Congress dealing with the unprecedented Great Depression.
Republicans can't have it both ways, and Americans need to realize this. The lessons of history reveal the unemployment rate rarely recovers quickly during a recession or depression. Plus, the recession happened under the watch of George W. Bush and the Republicans.
Voters need to remember who got us on the road to ruin before going to the polls Tuesday.