President Obama declared Friday that the U.S. has "better days ahead" in the face of May's disappointing jobs numbers.
U.S. employers created 69,000 jobs in May, the fewest in a year, push the unemployment rate from 8.1 percent in April to 8.2 percent in May. The Labor Department also announced Friday that the economy created far fewer jobs in the previous two months than first thought, revising those figures to show 49,000 fewer jobs created.
The increase in unemployment from April to May was the first in 11 months.
Obama sought to be reassuring as the dismal numbers fanned murmurs that perhaps the economy was not really improving after all. Speaking at Honeywell's Golden Valley facility in Minnesota, the president acknowledged that the economy was not creating jobs as quickly as hoped, but that it would eventually improve.
"We will come back stronger," Obama said. "We do have better days ahead."
The economy is averaging just 73,000 jobs per month over the past two months - roughly a third of 226,000 jobs created per month in the January-March quarter.
Weak job growth could damage President Barack Obama's reelection prospects. Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, has made the economy the central theme of his campaign. Romney and fellow Republicans wasted no time Friday piling on the president.
"It is now clear to everyone that President Obama's policies have failed to achieve their goals and that the Obama economy is crushing America's middle class," Romney said in a statement.
House Speaker John Boehner echoed Romney, saying that under Obama, high unemployment and a weakened economy were a "sad new normal" for middle class families. Other Republicans released similar statements.
But some economists pointed out that the woeful economy was years in the making, and would not be solved overnight regardless of what party was in office.
There are signs business confidence is waning. Companies have cut their spending on computers and machinery for two straight months, goods that signal investment plans. And some regional surveys suggest the factory activity is expanding at a slower pace.
Consumers are also more downbeat about the economy, according to some a May survey from the Conference Board. That could lead more Americans to cut back on spending, which drives 70 percent of economic growth.
Construction jobs plummeted 28,000, the steepest drop in two years. Professional services, government, hotels, restaurants and other leisure industries.
Not all industries cut jobs. Manufacturers added 12,000 jobs. Transportation and warehousing created nearly 36,000. Education and health care added
Businesses are facing a growing threat from Europe's financial crisis, which has worsened in recent weeks. The crisis is driving up borrowing costs for Spain and Italy and spreading to the banking system. Greece could be forced to exit the euro, which could push the region into a sharp recession. That could limit U.S. growth.