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Sun., Dec. 28
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Although the presidential election encompasses many issues, the economy and jobs are the chief concerns.

Both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney devoted much of their time in Wednesday’s debate to job creation. Each has talked at length on the campaign trail about his plans to put unemployed Americans back to work.

President Obama has seen high unemployment during his entire term. The jobless rate was 7.8 percent when he took office in January 2009 and within a few months it topped 8 percent.

No economy can grow so long as unemployment remains high. Gainfully employed people spend money. They buy homes, cars, groceries and countless other items, driving the economy.

The reverse is also true. When unemployment is high, consumer spending is low and the economy suffers.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month — the first time it dropped below 8 percent in almost four years — the Labor Department reported.

That, of course, is good news if the figures are accurate. The number of people who said they were employed rose by 873,000. Employers added 114,000 jobs in September and 86,000 more jobs in July and August than previously estimated. The unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent.

The Associated Press quoted Sal Guatieri, economist at BMO Capital Markets, who wrote to clients: “An overall better-than-expected jobs report, consistent with most recent data that suggest the economy is gaining some momentum.”

This gives some hope; it certainly is good news for President Obama, who seeks to recover from a lackluster debate performance on Wednesday.

The key word for economic progress is momentum. We’ll have another jobs report a few days before the Nov. 6 election.

Such reports suggest whether the economy is headed in the right direction — a key concern for voters in the presidential election.

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