US economy adds 171,000 jobs

US employers added 171,000 jobs in October and hiring was stronger over the previous two months than first thought, pointing to a slowly improving jobs picture that could enhance President Barack Obama's re-election chances.

The unemployment rate inched up to 7.9 per cent from 7.8 per cent in September as more workers resumed job hunts.

Since July, the economy has created an average of 173,000 jobs a month, up from 67,000 a month from April through to June.

Still, Obama will face voters in Tuesday's election with the highest unemployment rate of any incumbent since President Franklin D Roosevelt. The rate ticked up because more Americans without jobs started looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively searching.

Investors were pleased by the news. The Dow Jones industrial average futures were flat before it came out at 8.30am EDT (2330 AEDT), and within minutes they were up 30 points.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note climbed to 1.77 per cent from 1.72 per cent, a sign that investors were moving money out of bonds and into stocks.

Most of the details in the report were positive. The government revised the jobs figures to show that 84,000 more jobs were added than previously estimated.

The gains in October were widespread across most industries. And the percentage of Americans working or looking for work rose for the second straight month.

The economy has added jobs for 25 straight months. There are now 580,000 more jobs than when Obama took office.

But there were also signs of the economy's ongoing weakness. Average hourly pay dipped a penny to $US23.58. And the number of unemployed increased 170,000 to 12.3 million.

The department said Hurricane Sandy had no noticeable impact on the report.

The economy has picked up a bit in recent weeks, mostly on the strength of consumers. Americans are more confident and buying more big-ticket items, like cars and appliances. Auto companies reported steady sales gains last month despite losing three days of business to the storm in heavily populated areas of the Northeast.

Yet businesses remain nervous about the economy's future course. Many are concerned that Congress will fail to reach a budget deal before January. If politicians can't strike an agreement, sharp tax increases and spending cuts will take effect next year and possibly trigger another recession.

American companies are also nervous about the economic outlook overseas. Europe's financial crisis has pushed much of that region into recession and cut into US exports and corporate profits.

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