Economy gains 151,000 jobs as unemployment rate holds steady

The first unemployment report after a midterm election that centered largely on the economy showed the country added 151,000 jobs in October, the most in five months, possibly reflecting a better overall trend in the private sector.

But despite the uptick in hiring, the nation’s unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.6 percent last month, according to a Labor Department report released Friday. Economists say the economy will need to add 300,000 jobs or more per month in order for the unemployment rate to fall. 

The uptick in job growth came solely from the private sector, which added 159,000 jobs. Governments cut 8,000 positions during that same span.

Responding to the first unemployment report since his party was trounced in the midterm elections, President Obama said that 10 straight months of private sector job growth is "not good enough."

"The unemployment rate is still unacceptably high, and we've got a lot of work to do," Obama said. He added that he won't be "satisfied until everyone looking for a job finds one."

The White House also is working to finalize a trade deal with South Korea that could provide another outlet for American exports. If approved by Congress, the trade pact would be the largest free-trade agreement since the Clinton administration's NAFTA.

The president is headed to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan with a broad agenda that will hit on issues of the global economy, security and trade. He will be pressed to use the trip to make a connection with angry voters back home, a majority of whom went to the polls Tuesday to show their frustration with a Democratic administration that they hold responsible for a lack of progress on the economy.

“My hope is, is that we’ve got some specific announcements that show the connection between what we’re doing overseas and what happens here at home when it comes to job growth and economic growth,” Obama said during a Cabinet meeting Thursday.

House Republicans responded to the unemployment report by renewing their call for an extension of all the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. They say action on that issue would provide much needed certainty to businesses. 

"We need to end the uncertainty that continues to hang over the private sector, and that starts with ensuring that no one faces a tax increase in this economy," House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement. "I am encouraged that the White House now seems to acknowledge that raising taxes in this environment will only make things more difficult for struggling small business people, families, and investors.”

When Congress returns Nov. 15, Cantor said he hopes that legislation will be passed to extend the tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year.

- This article was updated at 10:43 a.m.


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