WASHINGTON - Nothing said at either party's convention may have as much effect on the 2012 presidential election as the three job reports coming out before voters go to the polls on Nov. 6.
The first of those reports came out today, and the news wasn't good: The economy added only 96,000 jobs in the month of August, and the unemployment rate fell from 8.3 to 8.1 percent because 368,000 people stopped looking for work. To make matters worse, the Department of Labor said 41,000 fewer jobs were created in June and July than first estimated.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said the report is "more of the same for middle-class families who are suffering through the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression."
Gov. Romney called the report the "hangover" from the Democrat's party in Charlotte last night, when President Barack Obama formally accepted his party's nomination for a second term. President Obama had promised to keep unemployment under 8 percent, but Romney noted August marks the 43rd consecutive month with unemployment above that level.
No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has been reelected with unemployment above 8 percent.
The dipping numbers mean the economy has added 139,000 jobs on average per month in 2012, down from 153,000 per month in 2011. The economy now has its lowest participation rate in 31 years.
Any post-convention momentum for Obama will probably be blunted by the lackluster report, which showed most of the new jobs were in lower-paying industries.
"This report underscores President Obama's failed promises to get our economy moving again," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. "President Obama made a spirited pitch for the failed status quo this week, but the fact is: We can do better." Boehner said the House has passed 36 jobs bills that await action by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Two more jobs reports will be released before Election Day, but today's was seen as especially important since it fell right after the party conventions.