Bush, Kerry differ on strength of economy

Saturday, September 4th 2004, 11:42 am
By: News On 6

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) _ Good news, or bad? President Bush and Democrat John Kerry had differing takes Saturday about the vitality of the nation's jobs market _ a question that's heating up this year's race for the White House.

Bush, campaigning in Ohio _ a pivotal state that has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs, says a new U.S. employment report offers positive news to voters worried about jobs.

``The economy is growing, Bush said at an ``Ask President Bush'' event in Broadview Heights, noting the national unemployment rate dipped to 5.4 percent in August.

But he acknowledged the state has been hit hard with job losses. ``Ohio has got pockets of unemployment that are unacceptable,'' Bush said in a county where just one in three voters backed him in 2000

Kerry, also in Ohio this Labor Day weekend, questioned Bush's claims that the economy is improving, saying a weak jobs market shows the president is out of touch with average families. Kerry's campaign noted that the dip in the unemployment rate occurred because 152,000 people dropped out of the labor force.

``If President Bush thinks this is good enough, then he just doesn't get it,'' Kerry said. ``It's very clear that his economic policies have failed the American middle class.''

In August, 144,000 new jobs were added, bringing the total in the last 12 months to 1.7 million. But there are still 913,000 fewer workers on payrolls than when Bush took office.

Jobseekers have been struggling with the bumpy labor market recovery. There were 8 million people unemployed in August, with an average duration of 19 weeks without work, up from 18.6 weeks in July.

Bush has opened up a double-digit lead in a second poll released after the wrap-up of the Republican National Convention. The Newsweek poll showed Bush at 52 percent, Democrat John Kerry at 41 percent and independent Ralph Nader at 3 percent.

Kerry had a 49-42 edge while Nader had 3 percent in a Newsweek poll released right after the Democratic National Convention.

The poll of 1,008 registered voters was taken Thursday and Friday and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Bush made an unscheduled stop on his bus tour at the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop, where he ordered a vanilla custard.

Asked about new polls that show him surging ahead of Kerry, Bush shrugged and said: ``I've got a lot of work to do.''

Bush won Ohio's 20 electoral votes in 2000, as has every other Republican ever elected president. Voters in Ohio have picked the winning presidential candidate in every election since 1964. Bush is vulnerable this election because the state has lost more than 200,000 jobs there since he took office.

``The world is changing dramatically for American workers,'' Bush said in his weekly radio address Saturday. ``The global market is expanding, creating new markets for our goods and new competition for our people. Workers are changing jobs more often, and they need new skills to stay ahead.''

Like Bush, Kerry used the Democrats' weekly broadcast to press his case on jobs.

``President Bush is now certain to be the first president since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression who didn't create a single new job,'' he said.

``We need to put Americans back to work to get the American economy working,'' Kerry said. ``And not just in any jobs but in good jobs that actually let you pay your bills and build your dreams.''

Sen. John Edwards, Kerry's running mate, was on a bus tour Saturday through Wisconsin. Vice President Dick Cheney planned an afternoon rally in New Mexico.