4 Nov 2012

Job data centre stage in US presidential campaign

10:30 am on 4 November 2012

New data showing an increase in both job creation and the unemployment rate in the United States has provided the presidential candidates with fuel for the final days of campaigning.

More jobs than forecast were created in the United States last month, though the unemployment rate was marginally higher, due to more workers resuming the search for work.

Employers added 171,000 more people to their payrolls in October and the US Labor Department also said 84,000 more jobs were created in August and September than previously estimated.

At the same time the unemployment rate edged up to 7.9% from 7.8% the month before due to workers going back into the labour force. Only people who are looking for a job count as unemployed in the United States.

Reuters reports the stronger-than-expected data was the last major report card on the economy before Tuesday's presidential election.

Polls show President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in a dead heat in a race in which jobs have been a major campaign issue.

Mr Romney presented the higher jobless rate as a signal of the economy's ills, and at a rally in Wisconsin accused Mr Obama of failing to deliver on his promises.

"He said he was going to focus on creating jobs but instead he focuses on 'Obamacare' (health reforms) which killed jobs. He said he was going to lower the unemployment rate down to 5.2% ... unemployment is higher today than when Barack Obama took office."

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

"In 2008 we were in the middle of two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Today our businesses have created nearly five-and-a-half million new jobs, and this morning we learned that companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months."

While the rise in the jobless rate was expected, the increase in payrolls beat even the most optimistic forecast in a Reuters poll.

US stocks opened higher but then turned down, while the dollar strengthened and prices were mixed for long-dated U.S. government debt.

The presidential election is held on 6 November. All seats in the House of Representatives and one third of the Senate seats are also contested.