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US economy adds 171,000 new jobs

US employers added 171,000 jobs in October, and hiring was stronger over the previous two months than first thought. The unemployment rate inched up to 7.9% from 7.8% in September because the workforce grew.

The Labour Department's last look at hiring before Tuesday's presidential election sketched a picture of a job market that is gradually gaining momentum after nearly stalling in the spring.

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

Still, President Barack Obama will face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt.

The rate ticked up because more people without jobs started looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively searching.

The jobs report provides a crucial snapshot of the vigour of the country's economic recovery, with the potential to sway the presidential race shaping up to be one of the closest in history.

Mr Obama got good news when joblessness measured at 7.8% in September, falling below 8% for the first time since he took office, but it was not enough to give him a lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and the race remains in a virtual dead heat.

The Obama administration claims credit for preventing deeper problems and said the economy is recovering from the Great Recession that started under Republican predecessor George W Bush. Mr Romney argues the continued economic weakness demonstrates Mr Obama's policy failures and touts his own record as a successful businessman as proof that he can create jobs.

Election Day is on Tuesday, and the two candidates were streaking between campaign stops in the all-important swing states on a final campaign blitz after a three-day hiatus for Mr Obama to manage the crisis surrounding Superstorm Sandy. Mr Romney muted criticism of the White House incumbent during those days for fear of appearing to seek political advantage while Americans were battered by the historic natural disaster.

In a boost for Mr Obama on Thursday, government and private sources were reporting a series of encouraging numbers about the economy. Reports on home prices, worker productivity, car sales, construction spending, manufacturing and retail sales suggested the recovery was picking up pace, and a measurement of consumer confidence rose to its highest level since February of 2008, nearly five years ago.

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