Senior Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie dismissed questions Sunday about whether the Labor Department's unemployment figures have been manipulated for political purposes, saying, "The numbers themselves are very damning."
In appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Mr. Gillespie and other Mitt Romney surrogates followed the lead of their candidate, opting against wading into the "jobs truther" conspiracy some Obama critics have alluded to since Friday's jobs report, which came two days after the president's disappointing first debate performance.
Instead, Mr. Gillepsie argued that the Labor Department 's monthly unemployment report fails to tell the whole story.
"Unemployment has come down since President Obama took office because for every new job created, more than six workers have left the labor force," Mr. Gillespie told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week."
The Labor Department's latest figures showed the nation's jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent the previous month — though a big chunk of the improvement, according to the report, comes from the 582,000 people who reported taking part-time jobs while still looking for full-time work.
The dramatic improvement raised eyebrows among some Republicans, including former General Electric chief executive Jack Welch and Rep. Allen B. West.
"Unbelievable jobs numbers. These Chicago guys will do anything … can't debate so change numbers," Mr. Welch tweeted Friday.
In a Facebook message, Mr. West said: "I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago-style politics is at work here. Somehow by manipulation of data we are all of a sudden below 8 percent unemployment, a month from the presidential election."
Officials at the Labor Department defended the report, saying jobs figures are calculated by experienced analysts without any political meddling.
The jobs report is prepared under tight security each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is based on data collected by census workers who interview Americans in 60,000 households by telephone or door to door.
On the Sunday talk shows, Democrats cited the September jobs report as evidence that the president's economic plan is working. The report found unemployment dipping below 8 percent for the first time in 43 months.
"We have a lot of work to do; we have to move forward," Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said. "We have to accelerate this recovery, but the fact is we're in a much different place than we were when the president walked [into office]."
What the unemployment figure fails to show is that millions of Americans have dropped out of the job market during the president's term, said the Romney camp. If job participation were at the same level as it was in January 2009, the unemployment rate would be 10.7 percent, Mr. Gillespie said.
"It becomes a good political club for the Obama folks, but fundamentally I don't think Americans woke up and said, 'Hey everything's fixed, we feel great,'" said Republican strategist Mike Murphy on "Meet the Press." "You can still see that economic worry — to quote the words of the vice president, the middle class has been 'buried' for four years."
Added Mr. Gillespie, "The fact that you have a White House celebrating an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent with 23 million Americans out of work or unemployed or underemployed tells you a lot about the failure of this administration's policies."
That talking point was echoed by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican, on "Fox News Sunday."
"I don't think there is really any cause to celebrate here," Mrs. Ayotte said. "The politics that this president put into place actually made [the economy] worse."
Mr. Romney, campaigning in Florida on Saturday, called the latest unemployment numbers "inexcusable."
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