POLAND, Ohio -- President Barack Obama on Friday told voters here in this battleground state that despite another mediocre jobs report, his policies are moving the country in the right direction and he needs them to give him another term.
"It's still tough out there," Obama told a crowd of a few hundred supporters at Dobbins Elementary School's gymnasium.
Unemployment in June stayed steady at 8.2 percent, with the economy adding a below-average 84,000 jobs, according to the monthly jobs report released on the first Friday of every month.
Obama touted the fact that "businesses have created 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months, including 500,000 new manufacturing jobs."
"That’s a step in the right direction," he said. "But we can’t be satisfied."
"I want to get back to a time when middle-class families and those working to get into the middle class have some basic security," he added.
But economists voiced concern that the U.S. economy has once again stalled in the middle of a tepid recovery.
"I’m inclined to believe that we’ve actually settled into a slower trend ... and that is really not where we need to be right now," wrote Jared Bernstein, a former top economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. "The slowdown is apparent across many industries, including manufacturing."
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former economic adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), said the June jobs report was "disappointing," and called it "especially troubling given the downside risks from Europe, the impending fiscal cliff, and the downshift in the global economy."
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called the jobs report "another kick in the gut" for American workers.
"It doesn't have to be this way," Romney said, speaking to reporters from a hardware store in Wolfeboro, N.H., where he has been on vacation this week with his family.
The Obama campaign responded to Romney, allowing the president to avoid engaging with him directly from the stump.
"The president brought us back from the brink of another Depression, but he doesn’t believe our work is done," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said. "Mitt Romney’s economic policies failed before and instead of creating jobs, they would weaken the economy and undermine the middle class.”
But before Obama even started speaking Friday morning, Republicans jumped on a comment by an economic adviser to the president, Alan Krueger, who said in a written statement that "it is important not to read too much into any one monthly job report."
"Really?" tweeted Joe Pounder, spokesman for the Republican National Committee. Numerous other Republican operatives retweeted the story, and the Romney campaign sent it out to the press with a simple subject header: "Stunning."
And despite Krueger's note of caution, Bernstein wrote that when you compare the past three months to the first quarter of the year, "payrolls are up an average of 75,000 per month, compared to 226,000 in the prior three months."
Obama's stop in Poland was the first campaign-style event on the second day of his two-day bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania. He has spent the bulk of his time here in the Buckeye State, one of the most hotly contested of the several states up for grabs in this fall's presidential election.
Earlier Friday morning, the president stopped at Ann's Place Diner in Akron and had breakfast with three tire factory workers from a local Goodyear plant, and then headed to the Summer Garden Food manufacturing plant in nearby Boardman. He will end the bus tour in Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon before heading back to Washington for events at the White House.