CHICAGO -- The suddenly dismal news on American jobs is a blow to President Barack Obama's re-election argument that he has been a steward of recovery. It has heightened White House anxiety over global threats to U.S. economic growth -- and the president's political prospects.
The economy, Obama conceded Friday, "is not growing as fast as we want it to."
Taking a harsher tone, presumed Republican rival Mitt Romney declared that the country appeared to be "moving backward."
After a winter when the job trends were in his favor, Obama has been forced onto the defensive by three months of lackluster to dismal growth. Confronted by Friday's report of a feeble 69,000 new jobs and an uptick in unemployment to 8.2 percent in May, Obama vigorously renewed his demand that Congress step up and enact some of his jobs proposals.
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Calling the eurozone's debt crisis a "shadow" hanging over the U.S. economy, Obama made his most urgent plea yet for measures that he said would "serve as a buffer in case the situation in Europe gets any worse."
Romney called the jobs figures "devastating news."
In an interview Friday with CNBC, Romney said that Obama's policies and his handling of the economy had "been dealt a harsh indictment."
Obama was in Minnesota to push his proposal to expand job opportunities for veterans and to raise money for his campaign. He also raised money Friday evening in Chicago.
He said private business has created more than 4 million jobs over the past 27 months, but, he added, "as we learned in today's jobs report, we're still not creating them as fast as we want."
Still, he said, "we will come back stronger; we do have better days ahead."
No president since the Great Depression has sought re-election with unemployment as high as the current 8.2 percent, and past incumbents have lost when the rate was on the rise.
Romney has aimed at Obama's economic policies, arguing that they have slowed the recovery, not aided it.
On Friday, his campaign released a new television ad promising "a better day" and declaring that a Romney presidency would focus from the start on the economy and the federal deficit, unleash U.S. energy resources and stand up to China on trade. "President Romney's leadership puts jobs first," the ad states.