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A taxpayer-funded bailout of Wall Street — supported by both candidates — has only increased the prominence of bread-and-butter economic issues and forced both campaigns to scramble to adjust to rapidly deteriorating forecasts on employment, trade and government deficits.

The U.S. jobless rate was 6.1 percent in September, according to the Labor Department, up from 4.7 percent a year earlier. Nationwide, the ranks of the unemployed grew by 2.2 million to 9.5 million and most economic forecasters project that the unemployment rate will only grow if, as expected, the U.S. and world economies tip into recession.

The numbers are bad and getting worse in a number of states considered critical to the election. Florida (6.6 percent), Ohio (7.2 percent), North Carolina (7.0 percent), and Nevada (7.3 percent) all have unemployment rates above the national average and substantially worse than just before the 2006 election.

Yahoo, Merrill Lynch, General Motors, Cooper Tire & Rubber are just some of the growing list of companies announcing layoffs in recent days.

In Zanesville, the news is both good and bad, according to Bob Mercer, supervisor of the Muskingum County Opportunity Center, a “one-stop shop” for unemployed and recently laid-off workers to find new work. The county’s jobless rate in August was 8.9 percent, up from 7.3 percent a year ago.

President Bush carried the county in 2004 against Democratic Sen. John Kerry, 57.3 percent to 42.3 percent, but polls this time suggest a much closer race.

Lear’s decision to pull up stakes was a blow, but cosmetics giant Avon is completing a major new distribution center in the city, holding an information fair for potential employees Thursday for a site that will eventually employ about 450 people. Time Warner is also opening a new call center that will create another 150 new local jobs.

“It’s a mixed picture for us,” he said. “We lost some good jobs, but with Avon and Time Warner we’re staying busy. Because we knew Lear was closing up for several years, we had some time to prepare.”

Pollsters say Mr. Obama’s current lead in the polls rests primarily on his higher marks on which candidate can deal with the economy.

A Pew Research Center survey last week gave Mr. Obama a 21-point lead (53 percent to 32 percent) over Mr. McCain on which candidate will do a better job improving economic conditions and a 15-point lead (50 percent to 35 percent) on “dealing with taxes” — traditionally a Republican strong suit.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Wednesday found the Democrat with a double-digit lead over his rival on which candidate could better handle issues such as the housing crisis, the Wall Street implosion and taxes.

Mr. McCain is fighting back, with his campaign striking a populist note centered on the tax burden on “Joe the Plumber” and seizing on a comment by Mr. Obama that he wanted to “spread the wealth” as proof he favors classic liberal tax-and-spend policies.

Asked if he thought Mr. Obama was a “socialist,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Office of Management and Budget and Mr. McCain’s top economic adviser, replied, “I have no idea what Mr. Obama is, and that’s a major concern.”

Mr. Holtz-Eakin said Mr. Obama’s economic platform, which includes a major middle-class tax cut and “trillions of dollars in new spending,” amounted to a “fiscal house of cards” that cannot be sustained.

Mr. Obama “is verbally one of the most talented people we’ve ever seen and he did it for a long time until he walked into some plumber’s driveway. That was his mistake,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin said at a forum sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York last week.

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