The U.S. unemployment rate rose slightly to 7.9 percent in October as more people looked for work, but the economy created a better-than-expected 171,000 jobs during the month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported today.
The report, the last before Tuesday's hotly contested presidential election, provides fodder for the campaigns of Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Most of the jobs growth came from the retail trade, which added 36,400 jobs; health care, where 31,000 jobs were added; and professional and business services, which added 51,000 jobs.
Government employment fell by 13,000 while manufacturing added 13,000 jobs after losing 27,000 in August and September.
The 7.9 percent rate marks the second consecutive month the jobless rate has stayed below 8 percent. A year-ago, the rate was 8.9 percent.
The number of Americans unemployed for 27 weeks or more increased 158,000 last month to 5 million, leaving it 14 percent below year-ago levels. They account for 41 percent of the 12.3 million unemployed Americans. A year ago, 13.8 million were unemployed.
Average hourly earnings for all workers fell 1 cent in October to $23.58 an hour. That is 1.6 percent higher than a year ago.
"The report is better than expected, which should help the incumbent, but not sufficiently so to be a game-changer," said IHS Global Insight economist Nigel Gault.
Len Boselovic: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1941.