Obama, Romney look to take advantage of largely positive October jobs report

The Takeaway

(Image by Flickr user jde-09 (cc:by))

The U.S. economy grew by more jobs than expected in October, but the unemployment rate still ticked upward as more people rejoined the work force.

In a report out Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American economy added 171,000 jobs, but the unemployment rate inched upward .08 points to 7.9 percent. The report also, however, revised upward previous months employment figures, adding some 84,000 jobs in previous months. The U.S. economy now has more jobs than it did when Barack Obama was sworn into office in 2009.

Unemployment remains below the symbolic threshold of 8 percent. No sitting president since Franklin D. Roosevelt — who was reelected in 1940 amid a Great Depression unemployment rate of 14.2 percent — has been reelected with an unemployment rate above eight percent.

That means, according to The New York Times, a big sigh of relief for President Barack Obama's campaign. While the news isn't exactly unvarnished good news, it is good enough to keep the last days of the campaign from veering into a discussion of how the economy has faltered again.

"Generally, the report shows that things are better than we’d expected and certainly better than we’d thought a few months ago,” economist Paul Dales said in the Times. “But we’re still not making enough progress to bring that unemployment rate down significantly and rapidly.”

In a rally in Ohio, one of the swing-states that could determine who wins the election in November, Obama made note of the positive results.

"We’ve created 5.4 million new jobs, and this morning we learned companies hired more workers in October than any time in the last 8 months," Obama said, according to The Washington Post. "The American auto industry is back on top. Home values and housing construction is on the rise. We’re less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the past 20 years. We’ve made real progress, but we’re here today because we know we have more work to do."

Romney, for his part, drew attention to the rise in the unemployment rate.

"The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23 million Americans struggling for work," Romney said in a statement.

If the economy were to continue adding jobs at this rate, the unemployment rate would eventually come down.

“The employment markets are showing a palpable increase in forward momentum,” Brian Bethune, president of Alpha Economic Foresights, said to the Post.

Private companies added 184,000 jobs in October, but the total job addition was reduced because of cuts at the U.S. Postal Service and in state government. The largest source of increases came from the retail sector, which added 36,000 jobs.

Wages remained stagnant, with the average workweek increasing to 34.4 hours while average hourly earnings fell one cent to $23.58 an hour.