The U.S. unemployment rate rose a notch to 7.9 percent in October, but employers picked up hiring and work force continued to expand, reported the Labor Department on Friday.
The economy added a total of 171,000 new jobs last month, beating the median estimate of a 125,000 monthly job gain. Firms hired at a stronger pace of 184,000 jobs, but governments slashed 13,000 jobs last month due to spending cuts.
Job growth has averaged 157,000 per month so far this year, almost the same as the average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011, according to the report.
In October, job growth was strong among the professional and business services, the health care and retail trade. The construction industry reported a gain of 17,000 jobs. Manufacturing payroll rose at a meager 13,000 pace.
However, mining lost 9,000 jobs, and employment in other major industries, including information, transportation and warehousing showed little change over the month.
The number of unemployed Americans was roughly unchanged at 12. 3 million in October. And the number of long-term unemployed, people who had been jobless for more than 6 months, rose slightly to 5 million, accounting for 40.6 percent of the total unemployed.
The civilian labor force rose by 578,000 in October as more workers re-enter the job market, a positive sign for the labor market recovery. The labor force participation rate - the share of the adult population that either had a job or was trying to find one - edged up to 63.8 percent from 63.6 in September.
The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payroll was unchanged at 34.4 hours for the month, and the average hourly earnings for all private employees edged down by 1 cent to 23.58 dollars.
The changes in total nonfarm payroll employment for August and September were revised up to 192,000 and 148,000 respectively.
While analysts don't see a significant change for the whole job picture, the October job numbers which came as the last major economic report before the election day were even more closely watched, providing fodder for the presidential fight.
4 days before the election, U.S. President Barack Obama touted his economic record on the upbeat payroll numbers at a rally in Hilliard, Ohio.
"Our businesses have created nearly 5.5 million new jobs; and this morning, we learned that companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months," he said.
The rise in jobless rate in October followed a 0.3 percentage point drop in September to 7.8 percent, the lowest since Obama took office in January 2009.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney Friday took a opposite view. He slammed Obama on the rising jobless rate, saying the one-tenth of a percentage point increase in the unemployment rate is a reminder that the U.S. economy is at a "virtual standstill", and the economic recovery has fallen short of what Obama promised four years ago.
Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, called Friday 's job report "October Surprise." "The uptick in October's unemployment rate is not alarming, because the labor force rose by 578,000 - a sign that confidence in the market is rising," he said.
Meanwhile, he cautioned that if lawmakers mishandle the fiscal cliff, the improvement of the past few months will be quickly unwound.