WASHINGTON — Republican White House hopefuls on Friday charged that dismal new jobs figures reflected President Barack Obama's botched handling of the economy, US voters' top grievance ahead of the 2012 elections.
"Today's abysmal jobs report confirms what we all know -- that President Obama has failed to get this economy moving again," thundered the field's frontrunner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
"With their cavalier attitude about the economy, the White House has turned the audacity of hope into the audacity of indifference," he said, playing off one of the key slogans of Obama's historic 2008 presidential campaign.
Romney's broadside came after the US Labor Department said that the ailing US economy, still digging out from the 2008 global meltdown, had generated a paltry 18,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate had ticked up to 9.2 percent.
"Today?s unemployment report is another stark reminder of the failure of President Obama?s economic policies," charged Republican Representative Michele Bachmann, who has surged in recent polls.
Bachmann, who is close the archconservative "Tea Party" movement, cited news reports that US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner aimed to step down pending a deal to raise the US debt ceiling and avert an early August default.
"We can only hope that the president will be right behind him after the next election," said the Minnesota lawmaker, who accused Obama of putting the US economy into "freefall."
Some Republicans have charged that the president's early 2009 stimulus package failed to create jobs, but the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the 800-billion-dollar program increased the number of people employed by between 1.2 million and 3.3 million in the first three months of 2011.
Others have zeroed in on an Obama administration prediction that enacting the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8 percent.
In a hastily announced public appearance at the White House, Obama said the new jobs report "confirmed what most Americans already know," namely that the US economy has "a long way to go."
"We've added more than 2 million new private-sector jobs over the past 16 months, but the recession cost us more than 8 million, and that means that we still have a big hole to fill," he said, warning good times would not come "overnight."
"America needs new leadership to turn our country around," said former US China envoy Jon Huntsman, who recently announced his bid to take on his erstwhile boss.
"Rising unemployment rates and extremely anemic job creation are not acceptable," said Huntsman, a former Utah governor. "We need free-market, pro-growth policies to spark a wave of job growth."
The new data showed that the private sector, expected to power up the economic recovery, added just 57,000 positions -- compared to 241,000 in April.
Offsetting that was a loss of 39,000 government jobs as authorities in federal, state and local administrations slash payrolls to address budget deficits.
"President Obama is out of answers and running out of time," said Republican White House hopeful Tim Pawlenty, who warned "we will have continued anemic growth and disappointing job creation so long as Barack Obama is president."
"I will turn around the economy as president by setting bold growth goals and implementing specific proposals to achieve them," said the former Minnesota governor.
Republican Representative Thaddeus McCotter blamed Obama's "failed stimulus and other irresponsible, job-crushing policies" for the high unemployment rate.
"Inflation is rising. Real wages are declining -- everywhere except at the Obama White House," he said. "To Main Street, this is real suffering. This must and will end."
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