By Jason Lange
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In Tuesday's U.S. presidential debate showdown, candidates pledged to create gobs of jobs at factories and in the energy sector. They might also work something out for a college student named Jeremy Epstein.
The 20-year-old posed the first question at the debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, asking how they would make him feel better about his employment prospects.
Obama and Romney didn't break any new ground in their answers, which summarized the job creation plans that have been the centerpieces of each campaign.
Romney repeated pledges to bring factory jobs back to the United States by being tough on China and by helping the U.S. energy industry, specifically producers of oil, natural gas and coal.
He told Epstein not to worry when he graduates in 2014.
"I'm going to make sure you get a job," Romney said.
Obama also emphasized manufacturing and energy, and seemed to suggest that those industries could be good places for Epstein's job hunt after he graduates.
Repeating regular points from his campaign speeches, Obama said he would promote public support for alternative energy and higher education.
"That's going to help Jeremy get a job," he said.
It was unclear if Epstein was considering a career in manufacturing or the energy sector.
But his concerns over his employment prospects are shared by millions of Americans who have struggled in recent years as the economy limps back from the 2007-09 recession.
Even when Epstein expects to graduate in two years time, some policymakers at the Federal Reserve expect the unemployment rate will still be above 7 percent. In September, the jobless rate was 7.8 percent.
(Editing by Alistair Bell)