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US Posts Solid Job Gains in October But Unemployment Rate Ticks Higher

U.S. job growth was better than expected last month. Despite a partial government shutdown, the Labor Department says the U.S. economy added 204,000 jobs in October and said hiring for August and September was better than previously thought. Still, the unexpected burst of hiring was not enough to lower the unemployment rate.

The U.S. economy added more jobs last month than the modest 125,000 economists were expecting. And job gains for August and September were also revised higher.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story, says’s Mark Hamrick.
He spoke to VOA via Skype.

“This one report is substantially better than expected, but it really flies in the face of a lot of other things we have been watching lately, so we really need to see some other data that would confirm what, on balance, is a positive report," said Hamrick.

Despite solid job gains, the unemployment rate ticked higher, from 7.2 to 7.3 percent - likely because some of the 800,000 workers furloughed during the government shutdown were counted as unemployed.

Visiting the Port of New Orleans to promote export-related jobs, President Barack Obama says there’s no question the 16-day shutdown hurt the economy.

“That makes no sense. These self-inflicted wounds don’t have to happen. They should not happen again. We should not be injuring ourselves every few months. We should be investing in ourselves. We should be building, not tearing things down," said President Obama.

Although the manufacturing and construction sectors saw modest increases, Mark Hamrick says the bulk of the new hires came from lower paying jobs in the retail and hospitality trades.

“We like jobs wherever we can get them, but we also want high quality jobs, and that wasn’t necessarily the case with this report," he said.

While the stronger job numbers came as welcome news on Wall Street, some investors wondered whether it might mean an early exit from the central bank’s low interest rate policies.

Hamrick says that’s not likely. He says the bigger question is whether consumer sentiment can sustain job growth as the lucrative holiday shopping season approaches.