Oct. 14, 2004--In its final jobs report before the November 2 presidential election, the Labor Department released some disappointing news to the incumbent last Friday. Though the unemployment rate held steady at 5.4%, the economy added only 96,000 non-farm jobs last month -- well short of the 148,000 Wall Street economists had predicted.

The report showed that most jobs were added in the services sector, yet manufacturers offset the gains by trimming their payrolls by 18,000 positions. The Labor Department also revised its job creation figure for August to 128,000, down from the 144,000 it reported last month. The economy has now lost 585,000 jobs overall since President Bush took office in 1991, ensuring him the distinction of becoming the first president since Hebert Hoover, who served from 1929 to 1933, to show negative net job growth during his administration. The news promises to stoke criticism of the president's economic policies leading up to the election.

"How can this administration continue to say that the economy is thriving when the economy is not creating the jobs it needs and so many American employers are laying off U.S. workers?" asked Congresswomen Nydia Velazquez, D-NY, ranking member of the House Small Business Committee. She added that last Friday's report is "a clear indicator that the economy is stuck in a slump and small businesses aren't getting the assistance they need to create the jobs our economy requires right now, especially for the 8 million Americans out of a job."