Applicants wait to enter a job fair on June 11, 2012 in New York City. Some 400 people arrived early for the event held by National Career Fairs, and up to 1,000 people were expected by the end of the day. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Paul Davidson, USA TODAY
- October job gains total 171,000
- Unemployment rate 7.9%
- Reports Thursday pointed to an improved jobs picture
Employers added 171,000 jobs in October, the Labor Department said Friday in the last employment report before the presidential election.
The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9%.
In October, the number of long-term unemployed--jobless for 27 weeks or more--totaled 5 million and accounted for 40.6 percent of all unemployed.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported there were 813,000 discouraged workers, who are people no longer looking for work because they believe there are no jobs. That's a decline of 154,000 from a year earlier.
Before the report was released, U.S. stock index futures were mixed and almost flat. After the report, at 8:30 a.m. ET, they showed little change.
Other barometers of the job market have been more encouraging recently. The government reported Thursday that first-time jobless claims last week fell 9,000 to 363,000. And a private survey estimated businesses added 158,000 jobs in October.
On other fronts, the economy has also shown improvement with retail sales, consumer confidence and the housing market strengthening. Falling gasoline prices are expected to provide a further boost to consumer spending.
But businesses have pulled back on investment and hiring amid looming tax increases and spending cuts that could hobble the U.S. economy if Congress doesn't act. And the European financial crisis continues to curtail U.S. exports.
"The fiscal issue is weighing on (business) confidence," says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics. "That's being reflected in (declining) investment and the lack of a pickup in hiring."
The Commerce Department recently said that economy grew at a 2% annual pace in the third quarter, up from 1.3% in the second quarter, a modest expansion that's unlikely to result in robust job growth.