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US Job Gains Lower Unemployment to 4.9%

Job seekers attend the New York Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) 2016 job fair, Nov. 2, 2016, in New York.

The last unemployment report before Americans elect their next president shows businesses added 161,000 new nonfarm jobs in October, nudging the unemployment rate down to 4.9 percent from 5 percent the previous month.

The October numbers fall short of those from the first nine months of 2016, when an average of 178,000 per month were added. But the results are unlikely to change voters minds about their choice for president, says's senior analyst Mark Hamrick, who tells VOA that if voters are waiting to see if employers are still hiring before casting votes, "They haven't been paying attention."

The latest jobless report is another indication of a durable but lukewarm economy. Monthly job gains have now averaged about 191 thousand jobs every month, just slightly below last year's pace of over 200 thousand jobs each month, but enough to make up for natural population growth and enough to lower the national unemployment rate.

A tighter labor market seems to produce wage growth, with the average hourly pay rising 10 cents an hour to an average $25.92. Wages are now 2.8 percent higher than they were a year ago, the biggest 12-month increase in seven years.

But higher wages and relatively low unemployment tell only part of the story. There are 7.8 million unemployed people in the U.S., a number that has shown little movement since August 2015.