Jobs growth quickens, giving Obama some relief

Fri Nov 2, 2012 1:28pm EDT
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By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Employers stepped up hiring in October and a small increase in the jobless rate was due to more workers restarting their job hunts, a hopeful sign for a lackluster economy that has been a drag on President Barack Obama's re-election bid.

Employers added 171,000 people to their payrolls last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. The government also said 84,000 more jobs were created in August and September than previously estimated.

The jobless rate edged up a tenth of a point to 7.9 percent, but that was due to workers surging back into the labor 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, an economist at TD Securities in New York.

The stronger-than-expected 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 center.

Romney cast the elevated jobless rate as a signal of the economy's ills. "The economy is at a virtual standstill," he said in a statement. His top economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, said a jobs growth figure closer to 300,000 would be needed to show an economy with real vigor.

Obama said the report showed the economy moving in the right direction. "We have made real progress," he told a rally in Hilliard, Ohio.

Despite the political wrangling, the impact of the report on the election could be muted as most voters' perceptions on the economy are likely mostly fixed by now. However, the jobs report could make it more difficult for Romney to drive his message home.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama holds up his plan for jobs during a campaign rally in Delray, Florida October 23, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque