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October jobs report hints at improvement

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters file

A woman speaks with a job recruiter during a job fair in New York. The Labor Department said Friday that U.S. employers added 80,000 jobs last month, while the U.S. jobless rate ticked down to 9 percent.

By msnbc.com news services

U.S. employers added 80,000 jobs last month, a government report showed Friday, offering some hope for the beleaguered employment market.

The nation's lofty jobless rate ticked down to 9 percent in October, after holding at 9.1 percent for the previous three months, according to the Labor Department.

The October jobs gain was the fewest in four months, but the report included some positive signs.

The government revised August and September's figures to show 102,000 more jobs were created than previously reported. Average hourly earnings rose. And the unemployment rate fell for the first time since July, because a separate survey of households showed more people found work. Businesses added 104,000 jobs last month, below September's total. The U.S. government shed 24,000 jobs.

Hey middle class, tell us about yourselves

The job growth in October was strong enough to suggest some economic momentum is building, according to Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.

“The job market is stabilizing and it does look like it’s beginning to accelerate a bit, and that’s exactly what we need,” Swonk told CNBC. “But this is still nothing to pop champagne about.”

Here’s more from CNBC on the October jobs report:

Economic indicators ranging from first-time filings for unemployment benefits to planned hirings by private firms had all pointed to an improvement in the jobs market last month.

Still, the labor market remains the Achilles heel of the economic recovery, and progress at putting 14 million unemployed Americans back to work remains painfully slow.

It is a challenge for President Barack Obama, who faces a tough fight for reelection next year, though signs of a modest improvement could buy the Federal Reserve extra time before loosening monetary policy further to aid growth.

The U.S. central bank on Wednesday lowered its growth forecasts and raised its projections for unemployment. While the Fed announced no new measures to stimulate the economy, it said it was considering the possibility of additional mortgage debt purchases.

But with fears of a fall back into recession receding, the pressure for more monetary policy stimulus has eased somewhat. Europe's debt crisis could, however, push the recovery off the rails.

The debt crisis, which has rattled global financial markets and pushed consumer confidence to recession levels, remains far from being resolved, and investors are keeping a close eye on developments in Greece.

The Obama administration has struggled to come up with policies to generate sufficient unemployment amid stiff opposition from Republicans.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke took lawmakers to task on Wednesday after the U.S. central bank concluded its two-day policy meeting: "It would be helpful if we could get assistance from some other parts of the government to work with us to help create more jobs," he said.

Indeed, while the economy is now in its second year of recovery, only a fraction of the more than 8 million jobs lost during the recession have been recovered.

"The monthly pace of employment growth remains well below the level deemed necessary to keep pace with demographic trend, much less absorb the large pool of workers displaced during the recession," said Millan Mulraine, a senior macro strategist at TD Securities in New York.

"Even disregarding the natural increases in the labor force, at the current pace of employment growth it will take over four years for the labor market to re-absorb the 7 million previously displaced workers."

The economy needs to expand at an annual rate of at least 2.5 percent over a sustained period and consistently add 150,000 jobs to keep unemployment from rising. Growth accelerated to a 2.5 percent rate in the third quarter from a tepid 1.3 percent in the prior period.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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