The US economy added 171,000 jobs in October, beating most economists forecasts. Previous month’s numbers were also revised up. The US is now averaging over 173,000 jobs a month since July, a huge jump from the 67,000 jobs created per month from April to June. Despite the improving job numbers, the unemployment rate ticked up a tenth of a percentage point to 7.9% due to more people looking for work.
Sectors across the board saw growth last month, including construction, health care, and retail. The recovery of the housing market is driving the growth in construction. Cleanup and rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy is likely to spur the sector further in the coming months. Retail has seen a boost from improving consumer confidence. With Christmas right around the corner, this trend is also likely to continue.
The October jobs report was the last to be released before the presidential election. Right now the economy is a mixed bag for President Obama. On the plus side, he can tout 30+ straight months of job creation and a consistently growing economy. On the downside, he has the highest unemployment rate an incumbent has faced since FDR in the 1930s. It will be up to voters to decide if that is a consequence of his policies or the mess he inherited.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney was quick to criticize the president for the numbers. Mr. Romney stated that the economy was at a virtual standstill. He noted that the unemployment rate was now higher than when President Obama took office, and that 23 million Americans were still out of work.
Most political experts did not expect the jobs report to influence the election this late in the game. Most voter’s opinions of the candidates have been sealed at this point. Each side is likely to use the data to further their own points.