By Toby Harnden
PUBLISHED: 14:35 EST, 4 May 2012 | UPDATED: 14:39 EST, 4 May 2012
The percentage of Americans working or looking for work has fallen to its lowest level in more than 30 years, according to gloomy economic figures that are a major blow to President Barack Obama’s hopes of re-election.
This stark ‘participation’ figure of the proportion of Americans in work will underline the sense of continued crisis at a time when the views of voters on the economy are crystallising.
Although the April unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 per cent, this was mainly due to discouraged workers giving up hope and leaving the labour force.
Only 115,000 jobs were added, the lowest number since a slow economic recovery began last August, and the number of people in work fell by 342,000.
The number of Americans out of work for at least six months fell by about 200,000 to 5.1 million but this group still represents 41 per cent of the unemployed and again the small decline can be at least attributed at least partly by people stopping to look for work.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, pounced on the figures to reinforce his central message that Obama, who inherited a 7.8 per cent unemployment rate from President George W. Bush, cannot be trusted to manage the economy.
‘Well, we should be seeing numbers in the 500,000 jobs created per month,’ he told Fox News. ‘This is way, way, way off from what should happen in a normal recovery. The reason that you’re seeing the unemployment rate go down is because you have more people dropping out of the workforce than you have getting jobs.
‘It’s a terrible and very disappointing report this morning. Clearly the American people are wondering why this recovery isn’t happening faster, why it’s taking years and years for the recovery to occur and we seem to be slowing down, not speeding up.
‘This is not progress, this is very, very disappointing and a lot of American people are having hard times and this is not good news this morning.’
It was the second successive month when the jobs report was disappointing, following an uptick in February that fuelled expectations that a steady recovery was happening.
Speaking at a high school in Arlington, Virginia, Obama tried to put a positive spin on the news. ‘This morning we learned that our private sector created 130,000 jobs in April, and the unemployment rate ticked down’, he said.
This meant there was a ‘good news’ trend but there was ‘more work to do’.
Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said: ‘Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but much more remains to be done to repair the damage caused by the financial crisis and the deep recession.
‘It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began at the end of 2007.’
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, countered: ‘Too many Americans have been unemployed for far too long. For millions, the economy is simply not working.’
The danger for Obama is that even if the economy improves significantly, voters will still feel the country is in the doldrums.
Despite the slow reduction in the unemployment rate from its 2009 high of 10 per cent, three quarters of Americans believe the country is in recession.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2139730/Number-Americans-working-looking-jobs-falls-30-year-low-causing-severe-blow-Obamas-campaign.html#ixzz1tQbP4cdI