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Oct. job numbers not good enough, experts, critics say

The latest U.S. job numbers released on Friday suggest relatively little change compared to the unemployment rate of September, which experts said will likely play into the presidential candidates’ campaign strategies just days before the election.

The nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for October remained relatively unchanged at 7.9 percent as the nation gained 171,000 jobs from nonfarm payroll employment, according to the monthly Employment Situation from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 percent from last month, which recorded a 7.8-percent unemployment rate, the lowest during Obama’s term.

The report, the last update on job numbers released before Election Day, carries heavy speculation on Obama’s chances of re-election.

Graham Wilson, department chair of political science at Boston University, said the more important figure from the report is that the increase in the number of jobs was one-third larger than predicted.

Wilson predicted how each side in the election would react to the report.

“The Obama people would say we’re going in the right direction, but we’re not there yet,” he said.  “The Republicans will say that unemployment is still far too high.”

Wilson said both parties could spin the jobs report.

“My overall take is that the increase, the fact that the number of new jobs was so much more than it was expected, is in general good news for Obama,” Wilson said.  “[But] the extent of that good news is tampered by the continuing unemployment rate.”

Douglas Kriner, an associate professor of political science at BU, said that even though the numbers are good, they are also not enough.

“[It’s] not what we would need to get us out, but [it’s] not nearly as weak as it had been during the summer,” he said.

Kriner said the unemployment rate is based on the number of jobless claims made.

One of the reasons why the number could have dropped in the previous month was because people gave up on looking for work and did not file a claim, he said.

Kriner also said the report would not help or hurt either candidate.

“Both candidates and campaigns will see something in these numbers,” he said.

Kevin Franck, communications director for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said the report shows that while the economy is not where it needs to be, Obama’s policies are moving it in the right direction.

“I think that this is more evidence that our economy is growing stronger as we make our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” he said. “We were losing 800,000 jobs a month when President Obama took office. The last month businesses added 184,000 new jobs, and for a total of 5.4 million new jobs in the past 32 months.”

Tim Buckley, communications director for the Massachusetts Republican Party, said even though these numbers do not change much, they are also not good news for Obama.

“A 0.1 percent rise in this latest jobs report doesn’t do anything to change the fact that there are 23 million people in America still either out of work or are looking for a better job,” he said.

Gregg Rosen, president and cofounder of the American 99ers Union, an organization that helps give the unemployed a start, said the report will not have an effect on the election, but it does show some interesting information on the economy as a whole.

Rosen said the country is in a better position than it was four years ago, where jobs were lost rather than gained.

“We’re still not moving at a pace that’s fast enough,” he said.

Rosen said the average of new jobs per month should be 250,000 to keep up with the population growth, but according to the report this month only created 171,000 jobs.

Rosen said Obama’s policies were successful up until the 2010 election because there was “obstruction” in the House of Representatives.

“We are moving in the right direction, but unfortunately we’re not moving at the pace that we need to,” he said.

Overall, the employment report will not change much in the election at this point, experts said.

“The race is set at this point,” Kriner said. “We’ll see how it turns out on Tuesday.”

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