US economy report brings mixed signals on jobs
With unemployment up, but more work created, Obama and Romney both seek to score points
The final key economic report four days before the US presidential election held something for both candidates yesterday.
It showed the monthly unemployment rate ticked up slightly but with far more jobs created than expected, as voters decide between a second term for President Barack Obama or a change to Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
With polls showing the candidates locked in one of the closest presidential contests in recent US history, Obama argues that the economy is well, if slowly, on the road to recovery from the "great recession".
"We've made real progress," Obama told a crowd in Ohio shortly after the report. "But we've got more work to do."
Romney called the jobs report a "sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill".
Obama will face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
US employers added 171,000 jobs in October, and hiring was stronger over the previous two months than first thought.
The unemployment rate inched up to 7.9 per cent from 7.8 per cent in September because the work force grew. Unemployment remains below 8 per cent, the lowest rate since Obama took office in January 2009.
While the report could attract undecided voters towards Obama in the closing days of the long and brutal campaign for the White House, the candidates were expected to go into Election Day in a virtual tie.
Yesterday's report came after other signs that the economy is on the mend. Most important, consumer confidence is up to its highest level since February of 2008, according to the Conference Board.
"We're not where we all want to end up, but we are making serious important progress moving forward," Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said.
Polls show Obama holds a slight lead in a majority of the battleground contests where the outcome of the vote is likely to be determined.
Under the US system, the nationwide popular vote does not determine the winner. Romney and Obama are actually competing to win at least 270 electoral votes in state-by-state contests.
Those electoral votes are apportioned to states based on a mix of population and representation in Congress.
Obama had three stops in Ohio yesterday, while Romney was set to hold two rallies there, as well as Wisconsin.