In news that might cause tremors of panic and cheer in equal measure, the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics announced that the economy added 171,000 new jobs during October, yet the joblessness rate ticked up to 7.9 per cent.

With less than a week left before the Presidential elections, the jobs data is likely to be seized upon by Democrats and Republicans alike, the former perhaps to emphasise the new jobs created in the post-recession scenario, and the latter to focus on the slow progress in the face of crippling unemployment.

Commenting on the BLS monthly survey results Alan Krueger, Chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in a formal statement, “While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression.”

Mr. Krueger added that the BLS report showed that the private sector added 184,000 jobs last month, “the biggest monthly gain in eight months,” and as a result the economy had added private sector jobs for 32 straight months, bringing the total number of jobs added during that period to of 5.4 million.

However in a statement the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, said “Today's increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill.” He added that the present jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there were still 23 million Americans struggling for work. “When I'm President, I'm going to make real changes that lead to a real recovery, so that the next four years are better than the last,” he promised.

In what might constitute a partial explanation for the uptick in the unemployment rate the BLS explained that the civilian labour force rose by 578,000 to 155.6 million in October, representing an increase in the labour force participation rate to 63.8 per cent. Among key social cohorts the unemployment rate for African-Americans increased to 14.3 per cent last month, while the rates for Asians was 4.9 per cent, down from 7.3 per cent a year earlier.

Employment numbers by sector varied substantially. Professional and business services added 51,000 jobs in October, health care added 31,000 jobs, retail trade added 36,000 jobs, employment in leisure and hospitality rose by 28,000, and in construction — especially in specialty trade contractors — increased by 17,000.

The mining sector lost 9,000 jobs in October and employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and government, showed little change over the month.