Still in a "soft patch"

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Published August 6, 2004 6:09PM (EDT)

It looks like John Edwards has more fodder for his "two Americas" theme. Job growth in the United States faltered in July as businesses added only 32,000 new jobs, well below expectations, and the Labor Department revised down job growth estimates from previous months. Alan Greenspan said that the economy "hit a soft patch" in June, but the president continues to insist that the economy is recovering briskly.

It did not take long for the Kerry camp to come out swinging. Gene Sperling, John Kerry's economic advisor, said on MSNBC this morning, "Not only are we not turning the corner on jobs, it's not clear we are heading in the right direction. We right now have virtually no private-sector job creationthis is very very bad news for American workers. It shows that it is a very tentative economy."

Sperling also said that the economy is "about 700,000 jobs behind where a typical recovery would be."

The reaction from the White House has deviated little from the defensive approach the Bush campaign has taken on the economy. So far, Bush advisors have tried to make disappointing growth look like minor success on the jobs front. CNN reports today: "The Bush administration said the July jobs report must be viewed in the broader context of an economy on the mend. And they pointed to a gain of 10,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector in July."

Still, in light of the July numbers, the White House has had trouble keeping everyone on-message. "Greg Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said the administration wants to see stronger jobs growth."

"'We are not satisfied with the level of job creation we saw today,' he said.

"'The economy is creating jobs. It is moving forward but not at a rapid enough pace.'"

Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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