Washington (CNN) — When Deanna Hubbard serves up steaming plates of scrambled eggs and bacon at Ann’s Place in Akron, Ohio, she isn’t thinking about how the ailing economy affects the presidential race or any of the other chatter from politicos who followed President Barack Obama to the Ohio eatery Friday.
She doesn’t have time to think about the economic picture because she’s too busy living it.
The economy is “doing bad. Right now, we’ve been blessed, but the economy has taken a toll on us with the food prices and delivery prices and people losing their homes,” Hubbard said, near breathless from racing from table to table after the president’s visit caused a spike in business.
The economy added only 80,000 jobs in June, just 3,000 more than in May, according to figures the Labor Department reported Friday. Though the 8.2% unemployment rate is lower than it has been in the last three Junes, the slow job growth does not bode well for Obama.
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But some political experts say that what’s more important than month-to-month jobs numbers is a candidate who offers a better long-term plan for recovery.
“Frankly, I think no matter who had been president, the last four years we would have seen very sluggish recovery. It’s normal after a financial crisis, but there is a question of where things are going from here,” Ken Rogoff, an economics and public policy professor at Harvard University and former International Monetary Fund chief economist, told Soledad O’Brien on CNN’s “Starting Point” on Friday.
“What are the job numbers going to look like the next four years? And I think that’s what the debate has to be around. There are, of course, two very different visions for the economy between candidate Romney and President Obama, between growth and perhaps more fairness.”
In Ohio, a swing state that had an unemployment rate of 7.3% in May, the question of “where things are going from here” is important. Just before the flat job-growth numbers were released, the president spoke with diners who worked at Goodyear Tire Rubber, which is headquartered in Akron, and toured the Summer Garden Food Manufacturing plant, which makes pasta sauce, in Boardman, Ohio.
Later, the president addressed the tepid job growth in a speech to a gathering of a few hundred at an elementary school gym in Poland, Ohio. The president highlighted the economy’s slow but steady recovery under his watch, such as businesses creating “4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months, including 500,000 new manufacturing jobs,” and a government program to shore up the ailing U.S. auto industry.
Obama also acknowledged that “It is still tough out there.”
Meanwhile, across the country in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, Republican challenger Mitt Romney called the jobs figures “another kick in the gut to middle-class families.”
“The president’s policies have not gotten America working again, and the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it,” he said.
Romney’s economic recovery plan includes reducing the corporate income tax rate and curbing some of the regulatory policies he says have driven up energy costs, among other measures to help whittle down the unemployment rate.
Rogoff says there are things that can boost the economy, such as nixing many tax exemptions, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and improving the education system.
“There are a lot of things we can do. The U.S. is a fantastic franchise, but this political paralysis that we’ve had between the Congress and president that’s been going on for a long time has been leaving the economy drifting in the wind,” he told O’Brien.
The June jobs figures may make news now, but presidential candidates and voters will be more closely watching a critical jobs report due just days before the November 6 general election, said Tom Smith, an assistant professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. If there’s an uptick in jobs creation just before the election, Obama is in good stead. But a downtick could bode well for Romney, Smith said.
“There are two things that are going to impact this election: the unemployment rate and jobs creation …” Smith said. “People are looking for things to get better.”
People like Deanna Hubbard.
“People don’t have the money to eat,” she said. “The older people are having to choose between eating and buying their medicines.”