President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaWhite House staff to skip correspondents' dinner Overnight Energy: Trump signs climate order | Greens vow to fight back GOP lawmakers defend Trump military rules of engagement MORE called the jump in the national unemployment rate "sobering," but defended his administration’s economic policies.
He noted monthly job losses are declining from where they were in January.
Republicans were critical of the administration after statistics showed another 190,000 jobs were lost in October.
House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn BoehnerNunes rebuffs calls for recusal Wounded Ryan faces new battle Bottom Line MORE (R-Ohio) said the $787 billion stimulus package resulted in "a jobless recovery and double-digit unemployment."
"Democrats pledged that the so-called ‘stimulus’ would create jobs immediately and keep the unemployment rate from going above 8 percent," BoehnerJohn BoehnerNunes rebuffs calls for recusal Wounded Ryan faces new battle Bottom Line MORE said. "But since the ‘stimulus’ was signed into law, more than 3 million private-sector jobs have been lost. Americans are asking, 'Where are the jobs?' but all they’ve gotten from Democrats in Washington is more spending and more debt."
The 10.2 percent unemployment rate is the highest rate since April 1983 and the Bureau of Labor Statistics said most losses were seen in construction, manufacturing and retail.
The administration and economists predicted the unemployment rate would eventually rise above 10 percent, but the rate crossed that threshhold earlier than expected.
Before he spoke, Obama signed into law legislation that extends unemployment benefits for up to 20 weeks. Obama said those benefits will not add to the deficit and will create more jobs.
The president has predicted since this summer that the rate would reach 10 percent by year's end. But economic indicators earlier this week hinted at only a slight uptick from September's 9.8 percent.
The White House has repeatedly said that the economy is in recovery. Officials have warned that job creation often lags behind other indicators of recovery such as the rising stock market.
Christina Romer, chairwoman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, emphasized the recovery aspect in a statement Friday.
“Today’s employment report contained both signs of hope for recovery and painful evidence of continued labor market weakness," she said. "Importantly, employment in temporary help services, typically one of the first industries to see job gains, increased by 33,700. The motor vehicle industry also posted employment gains. These are hopeful signs that the unprecedented policy actions are working to stabilize the economy and put us on a path toward recovery."
But she added: "Having the unemployment rate reach double digits is a stark reminder of how much work remains to be done before American families see the job gains and reduced unemployment that they need and deserve.”
Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis said that officials knew the higher rate was possible, and that it is an "unacceptable situation."
Solis also defended the administration's stimulus efforts, noting that monthly job losses have dropped off significantly from the 700,000 jobs that were being lost each month when Obama took office.
Meanwhile, Republicans said Democratic spending has done little to nothing to create jobs.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele pointed to Tuesday's elections, in which Democrats lost two gubernatorial races, as proof that Americans are not confident in the administration's efforts to improve the economic landscape.
"President Obama promised jobs during his campaign for president, and the elections in Virginia and New Jersey on Tuesday were a clear referendum on his failure to deliver on this promise,” Steele said.
Rep. Kevin BradyKevin BradyGOP torn over what to do next Republicans vote to block resolutions on Trump's tax returns House GOP insists: We’re not giving up on ObamaCare repeal MORE (Texas), the senior Republican on the Joint Economic Committee, said Friday's news is, "further proof that the Obama economic policies are a failure."
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said lawmakers will likely need to take further steps to shore up the economy.
"The road to a labor market recovery will be long and it won't be easy," she said.
Other Democrats used the numbers to push for more stimulus money for infrastructure.
Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement: "We desperately need a transportation plan that provides a vision for the future of American infrastructure and puts the American people back to work realizing that vision. To make sure that plan doesn’t add to our federal deficit, we should pay for the investments in infrastructure with a small transaction tax on stock and derivatives trades and the funds returned by the banks to the Troubled Asset Relief Program."
-- Silla Brush contributed to this article.
— This article was updated at 12:22 a.m.