Unemployment held steady at a low 5.2 percent in October as businesses resumed hiring new workers at a brisk pace - fresh evidence, President Clinton said, of a vibrant economy just days before the election.
Clinton, who has made the economy the centerpiece of his re-election drive, contended Friday’s report proved the falsehood of challenger Bob Dole’s claim of a looming downturn.
“It is time for my opponent and those on the other side to stop all this doom and gloom talk about America,” Clinton told cheering supporters in Santa Barbara, Calif. “In spite of what he wants you to think, when it comes to the economy, the sky is not falling.”
But Dole continued to talk about economic danger signs and emphasize the need for a middle class tax cut.
When the government reported Wednesday that overall economic growth during the summer had slowed to less than half its spring advance, Dole warned that the economy could be headed for a recession.
The GOP candidate told supporters in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday that he would use the last 96 hours of the campaign to emphasize the economic benefits of his $548 billion tax cut package to “get the economy moving again.”
Friday’s employment report showed businesses added an additional 210,000 workers in October, a significant rebound from September when payroll employment had fallen by 35,000.
In another report, the Commerce Department said that orders to U.S. factories surged by 2.7 percent in September, the biggest advance in two years.
Private economists said the latest reports underscored the challenge Dole faces in trying to convince voters that the economy is not doing well.
“This is another set of numbers that is an incumbent politician’s dream,” said Robert Dederick, chief economic consultant for the Northern Trust Co. of Chicago. “We have comfortable growth but not so rapid as to trigger inflation concerns.”
Economists were skeptical about Dole’s warnings that a report Wednesday of sharp deceleration in the gross domestic output, from 4.7 percent to 2.2 percent, could be signaling an outright recession.
Rather, they argued that the slowdown was just what is needed to prolong the recovery, already the third longest on record, by keeping inflation in check.
David Wyss, chief financial economist at DRI-McGraw Hill Inc., the country’s largest private forecasting firm, said his best guess for the next downturn was the year 2000.
“You don’t get a recession without imbalances in the economy,” he said. “Right now inflation is low and things look pretty balanced.”
Wyss said a model that attempts to predict election results based on key pocketbook issues such as inflation, employment and income growth, indicates Clinton winning easily with 55 percent of the vote.