October jobs report: U.S. economy adds 171,000 jobs; rate at 7.9%

The U.S. economy added 171,000 non-farm jobs in October, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Labor, but the official unemployment rate rose to 7.9%.

The official rate fell from 8.1% to 7.8% the previous month, due primarily to a surge in part-time employment.

Official job creation figures, which are subject to change as more data comes in, were ahead of the most quoted private sector forecast issued by ADP, which said the said the economy created 158,000 jobs last month.

Although more jobs were created, the official unemployment rate ticked up because roughly 600,000 people re-entered the workforce.

In September, the government’s preliminary numbers indicated that U.S. payrolls grew by 114,000 jobs, but the Labor Department revised upward the total number of jobs created in August and September combined by 84,000.

Economists say the economy must create at least 150,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with population and labor-market changes, and it must create about 250,000 to quickly bring down the unemployment rate.

The official unemployment rate is known as the U-3 rate. Another measure of unemployment, the U-6 rate, counts people looking for full-time work and people employed part time who want full-time employment. In October, that rate dropped from 14.7% to 14.6%.

Meanwhile, weekly initial unemployment claims totaled 363,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s total of 372,000. That brought the four-week moving average of initial unemployment claims down to 367,250.