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Better than expected labor report: 171,000 jobs added

The U.S. economy added 171,000 jobs in October, a better than expected number in the last jobs report to be released before the Nov.

The U.S. economy added 171,000 jobs in October, a better than expected number in the last jobs report to be released before the Nov. 6 election, according to Labor Department figures.

Unemployment held steady under 8% at 7.9% but ticked up from last month’s low of 7.8% as more Americans entered the workforce.

The number of jobs created in October is higher than the 125,000 that many analysts expected.

CNBC’s Brian Sullivan said that some of the best numbers from the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics report were revisions to previous month’s figures. Employers added 148,000 jobs in September, up from the previously reported 114,000; and 192,000 new jobs in August, up from 142,000.

The Labor force participation rate, a metric that measures those working and looking for jobs, rose to 63.8%, after slumping to 31-year lows in recent months.

Fortune magazine’s Leigh Gallagher called it the most important number of the report during a Friday appearance on Morning Joe.

“That [unemployment] number is always going to tick up a bit as people reenter the workforce, but you don’t want it t to tick up to much or otherwise people will start to freak out again,” she said.

That tick up—578,000 Americans who reentered the work force—accounted for the slightly higher unemployment rate, as the government only counts those looking for jobs as unemployed.

The White House responded to the report, saying the data showed the economy's continued healing. President Obama hailed the job growth as "realprogress" but said there is "more work to do," while speaking from Ohio this morning.

The Mitt Romney campaign called it a “sad reminder” that economy is at a “virtual standstill.”

Chuck Todd noted on The Daily Rundown that unemployment in the president's first term was 8.3%, so in four years, it has fallen a net 0.4%, but fluctuated greatly. A year ago in October, unemployment was at its highest in years at 10.2%, falling 2.3% in just 12 months.

Todd also noted that in the last four years, the president has added a net of 190,000 jobs, as 4,620,000 jobs have been lost and 4,810,000 jobs have been gained.

The White House released a graphic Friday afternoon to show the private sector's growth and recovery, noting that much of the job losses over the last four years have come from the public sector, something that starkly contrasts previous recession recovery patterns.

Morning Joe’s economic analyst and former Obama adviser Steven Rattner noted that stagnant wages still showed signs of the country’s economic weakness. Average hourly wages dipped a penny in October to $23.58.

”The only thing I see in this that is troubling a little bit in the long-term is the income,” he said. “There was no growth in income for the average American and that does hinder the recovery.”

Most of the jobs gains came in the services sector, which saw 150,000 new jobs. Even the housing industry saw signs of recovery in the report, as construction firms added 17,000 jobs, the highest number since January. Government payrolls actually lost 13,000 jobs, which Rattner noted signaled a particularly strong private sector job creation.

With four days to go until the presidential election, it’s likely that both political parties will “cherry pick whatever they need to make a politicalpoint,” Time magazine’s Mark Halperin noted.

While once thought that the final jobs report prior to the election could have a defining impact on the race, Halperin said it was unlikely after all.