The headline number of 171,000 additional jobs for October is more than respectable and considerably better than expected, but the best news involved other layers of the government's report. That includes big upward revisions from earlier months, with August now showing a gain of 192,000 jobs - roughly 100,000 more than the original estimate - and September at 148,000, up from 114,000. Also, the labor force participation rate increased, which could explain why the unemployment rate edged up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent the previous month. More people were looking for work and that suggests greater confidence in the economy. (Keep in mind that the jobless rate is based on a survey that's separate from the payroll survey that showed a gain of 171,000 jobs.) From the WSJ:
In recent weeks, evidence has emerged that the consumer economy is gaining steam, even as the business sector is pulling back amid weak overseas demand and uncertainty at home. Today's report provides fresh evidence of that theme. Retailers added 36,000 workers in October and hotels and restaurants added 23,000. But the factory sector added just 13,000 jobs, reversing only half of the decline in manufacturing employment over the prior two months. Other trends continued too: The health care sector, which has added jobs throughout the recession and recovery, added another 31,000 jobs, while government employment, a persistent drag during the recovery, fell by another 13,000 jobs.
This being the last employment report before the election, you can expect lots of media attention on the potential political impact. But other surveys released during the campaign didn't appear to move the needle much one way or another, and at this late stage it's unlikely that many minds will suddenly change. Either you believe the economy is getting better - and that Obama has some role in that happening - or you don't. But beyond all the predictable rhetoric, not much has changed: The economy continues to grow at a relatively modest pace - and for reasons that go way beyond presidential politics. By the way, the stock market doesn't seem to be reacting all that well - the Dow is down about 40 points. Here's the BLS release.