The US unemployment rate fell to 7.8 per cent in September, the government said Friday, indicating a strong improvement over August and delivering much-needed good news for US President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.
The fall, from August's 8.1 per cent, represented an increase of 114,000 non-farm jobs, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics reported. The major gains were in the health care, transportation and warehouse industries.
Few US presidents have been re-elected with unemployment rates above 7 per cent. The government figures are the last set of statistics to be released before the November 6 elections.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney charges that Obama is responsible for persistent slow economic recovery and for the fact that 12.1 million people remain unemployed. He has pledged to create 12 million jobs over the next four years if elected.
Obama blames the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for failing to pass his job-stimulus bill, and touts the creation of 4 million jobs during his presidency. Obama took office in January 2009 just as the full effects of the financial collapse were being felt.
The lingering recovery and low home prices have undermined revenues not only at the federal level, but also for state and local governments, which have been forced to lay off employees and cut back on benefits.
Obama lost ground in his election campaign after a listless performance Wednesday night in his first of three debates with Romney. During the 90 minutes on stage with his challenger, he failed to attack him on a number of hot campaign issues, including Romney's assertion that 47 per cent of Americans are freeloaders who pay no federal income tax.
The president also did not defend his health reform measure against Romney's charges that it would gut more than 700 billion dollars from medical care for the elderly.
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