ABINGDON, Va. - Mitt Romney challenged the significance of the drop in the unemployment rate today, arguing that the "real reality" is that the figure declined because "more and more people have just stopped looking for work."
"There was a report that just came out this morning on job creation this last month," said Romney at a rally in the battleground state of Virginia. "There were fewer new jobs created this month than last month. And the unemployment rate as you noted this year has come down very, very slowly, but it's come down nonetheless."
"The reason it's come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work," Romney said. "And if you just dropped out of the work force, if you just give up and say look I can't go back to work I'm just going to stay home, if you just drop out all together why you're not longer part of the employment statistics."
"So it looks like unemployment is getting better, but the truth is, if the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent," said Romney. "That's the real reality of what's happening out there."
This morning's jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the nation's unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent, the first time it's been below 8 percent in four years. September saw the addition of 114,000 jobs, according to the report, a decrease from the 142,000 that were added in August, and statistic that Romney emphasized on the trail today.
"'I'll tell you this, when I'm president of the United States," Romney said confidently, pausing for applause, "When I'm president of the United States that unemployment rate is going to come down not because people are giving up and dropping out of the workforce, but because we're creating more jobs. I will create jobs and get America working again."
Romney, who has made the struggling economy the focal point of his campaign, had been riding a wave of momentum following a strong debate performance earlier this week.
The good news in the jobs report, however, gave President Obama an excuse to focus on something other than his dismal debate reviews.
Obama said at his own Virginia rally this morning that the report was "certainly is not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points."