By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker praised the latest national jobs figures showing a drop in the unemployment rate to its lowest level since President Barack Obama took office, but he refused to credit Obama’s policies for the improvement.
Walker’s comments Friday saying the numbers were “absolutely” good news stood in stark contrast to the Republican presidential ticket. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin native and vice presidential candidate, called the drop in unemployment “a sad indictment of the diminished expectations under President Obama.”
The unemployment rate in September dropped 7.8 percent and 114,000 new jobs were added across the country.
While Walker wasn’t as critical of Obama as others, he did not give the president credit for the numbers that are the best since he took office in January 2009.
“It is still more of a reflection of people, regardless of the government, trying to persevere and move forward,” Walker said. “We would like to see sustained growth. And I think that’s going to be part of the debate, who can get us on the path of the future to have sustained growth.”
Obama celebrated the figures, saying they show the economy is headed in the right direction. Romney said Obama still hasn’t done enough to help millions of people out of work.
Also on Friday, Walker blamed the recall effort against him for a state jobs report that showed Wisconsin lagging its neighbors.
The latest quarterly U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report for Wisconsin showed that between March 2011 and March 2012, the state added nearly 37,500 private sector jobs. However, that 1.7 percent growth ranked it 38th nationwide and below neighboring states like Michigan that saw 3.4 growth and Minnesota at 2.5 percent.
“Recall. Simple,” Walker said in response to questions about the state’s performance after touring the World Dairy Expo in Madison. “Most employers were waiting to see what happens.”
Walker has frequently blamed the recall effort – which officially kicked off in November and ended with his election win in June – for bad economic data. However, before the recall started Walker was quick to take credit for reports that showed job growth.
“Overall I think all of us would like to see lower unemployment, more people working,” Walker said.
Walker’s comments on jobs and the presidential race came a day after Obama drew 30,000 people to a rally on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The latest Marquette University Law School poll, released Wednesday, showed Obama with an 11-point lead in Wisconsin with just 3 percent of voters undecided.
Walker said Wisconsin remains in play, saying undecided voters who helped him win his recall election will be impressed with how Romney did in this week’s debate and that will be reflected in future polls.