Democrats and Republicans waged an open political spin war over an unemployment report that showed job gains in April, but also an increase in the unemployment rate.
Democrats played up the 290,000 jobs added to the economy in April, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, while Republicans lamented the increase in the unemployment rate to 9.9 percent, a result of more people entering the workforce to seek jobs.
"Today’s employment report shows the strongest signs yet of healing in the labor market, as private nonfarm payrolls expanded substantially," said Christina Romer, a top White House economics advisor and Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) chairwoman, in a blog posting.
The offices of other Democrats in Congress and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) meanwhile stressed the 231,000 jobs added by private employers, the most since March of 2006.
That argument was meant to downplay Republican criticism, advanced already on Thursday, that the employment figures were padded by temporary Census jobs.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who was among those to suggest the jobless rate was distorted by those government jobs, focused Friday on the unemployment rate through the end of April, which ticked up from 9.7 percent the month before.
"A 9.9 percent unemployment rate is a harsh reminder that families and small businesses continue to ask ‘where are the jobs?’" Boehner said in a statement. "Positive job growth is always welcome news, but this rising and painfully high unemployment rate is a far cry from President Obama’s promise that the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ would keep joblessness from rising above eight percent."
The different notes struck by Democrats and Republicans reflect a sense on both sides that jobs numbers will play heavily into each party's political fortunes this fall, when Republicans hope to make inroads into Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, if not win either outright.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the second-ranking House Republican behind Boehner, meanwhile took aim at the deficits run up by Democrats over the past year and a half.
"Out-of-control spending in Washington has produced a Mount Everest of debt that we are asking future generations to climb," Cantor said. "Even if the economy added 250,000 jobs every month, it would take nearly five years to get back to full employment."
The spin war will only increase on Friday after President Barack Obama, flanked by his team of economic advisors, will deliver a statement this morning, which is expected to largely extol the April jobs numbers.