FAIRFAX, Va. -- The monthly ritual of plumbing the employment report for political advantage began anew on Friday, with Mitt Romney and other Republicans lamenting what one leader called "the new normal" of high unemployment while the White House said the lower jobless rate was proof that its policies were working.
In a blog post, Alan B. Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said the 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."
Mr. Krueger's statement was little changed from the White House's typically cautious response to job reports, noting that these numbers are often revised upward or downward, although he pointed out that the jobless rate of 7.8 percent was back down to its level in January 2009, the month President Obama took office.
Mr. Obama will offer his first reaction to the numbers at a campaign rally here later Friday morning, as he struggles to regain momentum after his lackluster performance in the debate on Wednesday. He will later fly to Cleveland for a second rally.
In a statement released soon after the numbers came out, Mr. Romney looked on the dark side, declaring, "This is not what a real recovery looks like. We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we've lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office."
The jobless rate was only lower, he said, because millions of people had left the labor force in despair after not finding jobs. "The results of President Obama's failed policies are staggering," he said, pointing to 23 million Americans struggling to find work and 47 million people dependent on food stamps to "feed themselves and their families."
The House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, echoed that theme, saying that "despite some encouraging news," the report confirmed that millions of Americans had simply left the work force. "The work-force participation rate hasn't been this low since Jimmy Carter was president," he said. "America needs a new direction."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.