CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama is expected to thrill supporters Thursday night when he speaks at the Democratic National Convention, but the good feeling could be short-lived with the arrival of a critical jobs report to be released Friday morning.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its August job numbers less than 12 hours after the president's speech, in which he is likely to point to employment gains over the past two years as evidence that his economic policies are working and will continue to prove effective if voters re-elect him over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The Obama administration was cautiously optimistic last month when numbers came out showing that the nation added 163,000 jobs in July, although the overall jobless rate remained at 8.2 percent. Similar numbers on Friday could add to his post-convention momentum. However, more modest gains could undercut the president's message and add fuel to the argument from critics that the economy is recovering far too slowly under his watch.
"We're not creating jobs at a pace that would permit us to create good jobs for people," said Peter Morici, an economics professor at the University of Maryland.
"In reality, most of the jobs that are being created don't pay very well, and we're certainly not creating many jobs for young people."
Mr. Morici said he expects the new numbers to show about 140,000 new jobs, which would fall short of August but would exceed lackluster numbers from the previous three months.
The Obama administration has hoped to regain job momentum from earlier this year, when the nation added an average of more than 250,000 jobs a month from December to February.
Republicans have argued that Democrats are driving employment down with calls for higher taxes and more regulation, but Democrats counter by saying their policies are aimed more at protecting employees than businesses and will work in the long run.
"It is critical that we continue the policies that build an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007," White House economist Alan B. Krueger said last month.
Both Democrats and Republicans have stressed job growth as a prevailing theme at their conventions, and polls repeatedly have shown it as the top issue for voters.
"We need to leave here as a party acknowledging that there is no progress without jobs," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, said this week.
"Job growth will help us bring down our deficit, job growth will help us feed our children, job growth is what makes us strong as a country."
While Republicans constantly have accused Mr. Obama of being anti-business, the strategy has yielded mixed results in many polls — which Mr. Morici said is an indictment of Mr. Romney.
The economist was harshly critical of both Mr. Obama and the GOP nominee, saying Mr. Romney has failed to capitalize on the president's "terrible" job numbers by telling personal stories of citizens who have been hurt by unemployment.
He contended that Mr. Obama has been able to tout his modest gains as successful only because Mr. Romney has been unable to provide a detailed, personalized counterargument.
"It's really Romney's fault for not putting Obama on the dime," he said. "You get a bad number, you need to point to people who are tangible examples of those numbers."
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