The Labor Department announced Friday morning that the unemployment rate had fallen to 4.4 percent in October â€” down from 4.6 percent in September and the lowest rate since May 2001, when it was 4.3 percent.
Within hours, President Bush mocked Democrats for predicting that the administrationâ€™s tax and spending policies would wreck the economy.
â€œIf the Democratsâ€™ election predictions are as good as their economic predictions, weâ€™re going to have a good day on November the seventh,â€ Mr. Bush said, drawing a long cheer from a crowd in Joplin, Mo., where he was campaigning for Senator Jim Talent, who is in a close race.
â€œThe facts are in,â€ Mr. Bush said at another campaign stop on Friday. â€œThe tax cuts have led to a strong and growing economy, and this morning, we got more proof of that.â€
The call for job applications seemed routine; certainly nobody at corporate headquarters gave it much thought. A new candy store that would be opening in Times Square needed workers. Starting pay was $10.75 an hour.
But by midmorning yesterday, a huge, swelling, discontented crowd of job seekers was milling around the sidewalks of Midtown Manhattan, not far from Macyâ€™s in Herald Square, filling the air with curses.
The crowd put a human face on jobless statistics at a time when the cityâ€™s unemployment rate, 4.5 percent in September, was the lowest since 1988.
Several thousand people â€” mostly young, black and Hispanic â€” had shown up to apply for fewer than 200 positions, only 65 of them full-time jobs. They came, they said, because of a phrase that had leapt out of the advertisements for the jobs: â€œon-the-spot hiring.â€ But there were too many people clogging the sidewalk outside the building on Eighth Avenue between 35th and 36th Streets where the company was conducting interviews, and everyone was abruptly told to go home and mail in the job applications.
Tamika Jones, 28, a Brooklyn mother of three school-age children, looked at the faces of other disappointed job-seekers and said: â€œThis is what unemployment looks like in New York City. I wanted to cry.â€