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U.S. Jobless Rate Falls To 7.8 Percent

President Obama Gets Welcome News Following Lackluster Effort In Debate
(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The nation’s unemployment numbers have dropped below the 8 percent barrier for the first time in four years and have immediately become a political football on the presidential campaign trail.

It was the breaking of a psychological barrier for President Barack Obama as the jobless rate reached the lowest point of his term, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported. After a lackluster debate performance on Wednesday, the new numbers had Obama grinning like the Cheshire Cat on Friday and saying his efforts were working.

“Today’s news is not an excuse to talk down the economy to score political points; it’s a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now,” Obama said.

1010 WINS’ John Montone reports

Unemployment fell to 7.8 percent. It had been fluctuating between 8.1 and 8.3 percent since January, after being stuck between 8.8 and 9.1 percent for 10 months in 2011. The number of unemployed Americans is now 12.1 million, the fewest since January 2009.

For the president it could mark a turning point in the campaign, but Republican challenger Mitt Romney claimed the numbers weren’t real because they didn’t include the number of people who simply stopped looking for work.

“The truth is if the same share of people were participating in the work force today as on the day the president got elected why our unemployment level would be around 11 percent. That’s the real reality,” Romney said.

Coming just a little more than a month before the election, the surprising report generated skepticism in some circles.

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch tweeted: “Unbelievable job numbers..these chicago guys will do anything..cant debate so change numbers.”

The White House denied manipulating the jobs numbers for political purposes.

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said: “Any serious person, who has any familiarity with how these numbers are tabulated, knows they are the work of career employees of (the) Bureau of Labor Statistics … and they do that on their own.”

It will be important to see if the numbers hold up. There is another jobs report due out just before the election.

No president has been re-elected with unemployment above 8 percent since the Great Depression.

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