US employers stepped up hiring in October and the jobless rate ticked higher as more workers restarted job hunts, a hopeful sign for a lacklustre economy that has been a drag on President Barack Obama's re-election chances.
Employers added 171,000 people to their payrolls last month, the Labour Department said yesterday. The government also said 84,000 more jobs were created in August and September than previously estimated.
The jobless rate edged up a 10th of a point to 7.9 per cent, but that was due to workers surging back into the labour force. Only people who are looking for a job count as unemployed.
"This report is consistent with the emerging picture of an economic recovery that is continuing to regain traction after grinding to a halt earlier this year," said Millan Mulraine, senior US strategist at TD Securities in Toronto.
The employment data was the last major report card on the economy before Tuesday's presidential election. Polls show Obama and Republican Mitt Romney locked in a dead heat in a race in which the nation's feeble jobs market has been front and centre.
"Really vigorous is a number like 250,000 to 300,000 jobs a month. This is simply not good enough," Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard said.
Alan Krueger, the head of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, said the report showed the economy moving in the right direction. "While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the US economy is continuing to heal," he said.
Despite the political wrangling, the impact of the report on the election will likely be muted as most voters' perceptions on the economy are likely fixed by now.