Hiring increased last month, while the unemployment rate ticked higher, according to a report released just four days before the presidential election.
The economy added 171,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment ticked up to 7.9, from 7.8% in September, the Labor Department said Friday.
Economists surveyed by CNNMoney had expected employers to add 125,000 positions in the month and unemployment to inch up to 7.9%.
The number of jobs added in August and September were revised sharply higher, adding a combined 84,000 more jobs that originally reported.
Professional and business services added 51,000 positions, while health care employment rose by 31,000. Retail and leisure and hospitality also boosted payrolls. Manufacturing was little changed and mining lost 9,000 jobs.
The report, the last before Tuesday's election, will likely be picked apart by politicians as well as economists. September's report, which showed an unexpected drop in the unemployment rate, prompted an outcry from Republican supporters, including Jack Welch, claiming the figure had been manipulated.
The monthly jobs report has taken on increased importance as the nation struggles to recover from the economic downturn. Roughly 12.3 million people remain unemployed, 40.6% of whom have been so for more than six months. And presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are centering much of the campaigns on who can create more jobs.
Employment growth has averaged 157,000 jobs per month so far in 2012, slightly more than the 2011 average monthly gain of 153,000.
While many industries are adding jobs, the current tepid pace of growth is not enough to climb out of the jobs hole, economists said. Companies remain hesitant to boost payrolls. One of their main worries? How the president and Congress deal with the looming fiscal cliff.