Payroll Employment increases by 171,000 in October, surprising experts.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 171,000 in October, and the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 7.9 percent. Employment rose in professional and business services, health care, and retail trade.

U.S. employers stepped up hiring in October and the jobless rate ticked higher as more workers restarted job hunts, a hopeful sign for a lackluster economy that has dragged on President Barack Obama’s reelection chances.

Employers added 171,000 people to their payrolls last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. The government also said 84,000 more jobs were created in August and September than initially estimated.

The jobless rate edged a tenth of a point higher to 7.9 percent, but that was due to a surge of workers back into the workforce. Only people who have recently looked for a job can count as unemployed.

The employment data was the last major report card on the economy before Tuesday’s presidential election, which pits Obama against Republican Mitt Romney.

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

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