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US adds 171,000 jobs but rate rises to 7.9%

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON -- U.S. employers added 171,000 jobs in October and hiring was stronger over the previous two months than first thought, pointing to a slowly improving jobs picture that could enhance President Barack Obama's re-election chances. The unemployment rate inched up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September as more workers resumed job hunts.

Since July, the economy has created an average of 173,000 jobs a month. That's up from 67,000 a month from April through June.

Still, Obama will face voters in Tuesday's election with the highest unemployment rate of any incumbent since President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The rate rose in October mainly because more Americans began seeking work and were counted as unemployed. The government counts people without jobs as unemployed only if they're looking for one.

The work force — the number of people either working or looking for work — rose by 578,000 in October. And 410,000 more people said they were employed.

Friday's report included a range of encouraging details.

The government revised its data to show that 84,000 more jobs were added in August and September than previously estimated. The jobs gains in October were widespread across industries. And the percentage of Americans working or looking for work rose for the second straight month.

The economy has added jobs for 25 straight months. There are now 580,000 more than when Obama took office.

But there were also signs of the economy's persistent weakness. Average hourly pay dipped a penny to US$23.58. In the past year, pay has risen just 1.6 percent. That has trailed inflation, which rose 2 percent.

The number of unemployed increased 170,000 to 12.3 million.

The October jobs report was compiled before Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast earlier this week and devastated many businesses.

The nascent housing recovery is finally generating jobs. Construction companies added 17,000 positions, the most since January. Manufacturers added 13,000 jobs after shedding workers in the previous two months.

Professional services such as architects and computer systems providers also added jobs. So did retailers, hotels and restaurants, and education and health care. Government overall shed 13,000 jobs, after three months of gains.

The number of unemployed increased 170,000 to 12.3 million, pushing up the unemployment rate.

White House Says Jobs Data Shows US Economy Healing

The White House said on Friday that data showing hiring in the United States increased in October was proof the economy is on the mend, and stressed that the nation needs to stay with President Obama's policies to dig out of hole created by the recession.

“Today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression,” Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement.

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