The unemployment rate for September dropped 7.8 percent, the U.S. Labor Department announced Friday.
The news came as a surprise to many. Prior to September, unemployment had been stuck above 8 percent for more than three-and-a-half years -- the longest stretch since the Great Depression.
For most Americans, the economy is easily the number one issue in the presidential election.
What do the new job numbers really mean for the upcoming election? CBN News Political Analyst John Waage explains, following this report.
The president welcomed the new numbers at a rally in northern virginia.
"Today's news certainly is not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points," President Obama said Friday. "It's a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now."
But Republican challenger Gov. Mitt Romney said the new numbers don't take into account the number of people who have stopped looking for work.
"When I'm president of the United States, that unemployment rate is going to come down not because people are dropping out of the workforce, but we're creating more jobs," he said.
No president has been re-elected with unemployment above 8 percent since the 1930s.
"An overall better-than-expected jobs report, consistent with most recent data that suggest the economy is gaining some momentum," Sal Guatieri, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, said of Friday's jobs report.
"The sizeable drop in the unemployment rate could lift the president's re-election chances following a post-debate dip," he said.
President Obama said he needs more time to fix the economy because of the mess he inherited from the previous administration.
The economy is growing too slowly for businesses to add new employees. Many companies are also waiting to see the outcome of the election.
And a lot of U.S. companies are reluctant to step up hiring or investing because of the year-end "fiscal cliff." That's when a package of large tax increases and steep spending cuts are scheduled to take effect.
Unless Congress agrees to postpone the cuts, the economy could be pushed back into recession.
Despite other issues like high gasoline and energy prices and a foreign policy disaster in the Middle East, the economy will likely be on most voters' minds on Election Day.