Democratic challenger John Kerry is criticizing President Bush's handling of the economy, citing lower-than-expected job figures to say the country needs a new direction. The Bush administration says it is disappointed by Friday's job numbers, but is confident the economy is moving in the right direction.
With just 32,000 new jobs last month, the U.S. economy fell short of the 125,000 jobs needed to keep pace with population growth and shorter still of the 250,000 new jobs some analysts expected.
Campaigning in the Midwest state of Missouri, Senator Kerry used the slow job growth report to criticize the president's performance on the economy, mocking Mr. Bush's use of the phrase: "America has turned the corner and is not going back."
"My friends, in the last few days, you've heard people in positions of leadership on the other side saying, America has turned the corner," he said. "Well, it must have been a U-turn, or else they are continually turning, and they are going around in circles and ending up right back where they started from, because the fact is, this is unacceptable for the United States. We can do better. We can put people to work."
Bush administration officials say they are not satisfied by the new job figures, but maintain that, overall, the economy is heading in the right direction after years of recession made worse by terrorist attacks and corporate corruption.
Speaking to a convention of ethnic minority journalists in Washington, President Bush said the economy is improving. "Economic growth is strong, and it is getting stronger, and that is good for everybody in America. I want you to remember the tax relief and how it worked," he said.
President Bush says his record tax cuts have helped stimulate the economy by leaving taxpayers with more money to spend on more goods and services, which, he says, have in turn created more jobs.
"In order to make sure this country is hopeful and people have a better chance to realize their dreams, we need economic growth. That's why I cut the taxes on everybody," he said.
President Bush says Senator Kerry wants to raise taxes to fund trillions of dollars in new government spending. Senator Kerry says he will only raise rates for the top two percent of taxpayers. Everyone else, he says, will get tax cuts, including reductions in corporate taxes to keep more American jobs from going overseas.
The economy and fighting terrorism are central campaign issues in a race, which most public opinion polls show is about even, with less than 90 days before Election Day.