Even though the pace of jobs creation remains lackluster, the final reading on unemployment before the elections next Tuesday topped analyst expectations, according to Friday’s report from Washington. The Labor Department said that the U.S. created 171,000 jobs in October and upwardly revised its figures for August and September as well; adding a total of 84,000 more jobs for those months. Economists were expecting 120,000 new jobs in October.
However, the unemployment rate – which is the figure that everyone focuses on – upticked to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September. Even with 171,000 more jobs being reported, the unemployment rate rose because the work force – the number of people either working or looking for work – increased by 578,000.
This creates great fodder for politicians as the democrats will focus on the unemployment rate finally holding below 8 percent and showing improvement while the republicans beat the drum of high unemployment and the 0.1 percent climb in October.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney seized the opportunity to say that the latest report is “a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill.”
The unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September, marking the first time since President Obama took office in 2009 that the closely-watched rate fell below 8 percent. During Obama’s term, 580,000 new jobs have been created.
Notably, the employment data was collected before Hurricane Sandy obliterated the East Coast, so there was no impact from the storm on the latest reading.
Other information from the Labor Department showed that average hourly wages dropped a penny to $23.58 in October and that the average work week was flat at 34.4 hours.
The latest reading continues a trend that the jobs market is gaining some momentum. During the months of April through June, only an average of 67,000 jobs per month was created. From July through October, that pace has quickened to 173,000 per month.
Even so, the economy would need a stark rise in hiring to create about 250,000 jobs per month for the next few years to bring the unemployment rate down to below 6 percent, where it was before the recession in 2008.
Meanwhile, north of the U.S. border, Statistics Canada said Friday morning that Canada’s unemployment rate remained a t 7.4 percent in October.