WASHINGTON -- The final major economic report before Election Day, showing that employers added a solid 171,000 jobs in October, may not change many minds, but it does suggest that whoever wins Tuesday could enjoy increased economic momentum heading into next year.
Businesses stepped up their hiring last month, and more people jumped back into the job market, signs that the economy is picking up steam even as unemployment remains high.
Job numbers expanded across a broad range of industries, including the long-depressed construction sector.
That part of the economy should get a lift in the next couple of months from rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy.
What's more, the statistics released Friday indicate that payroll growth in the past two months was sharply higher than thought. Revisions in the numbers boosted optimism among economists that the nation's job creation machine could kick into a higher gear.
The jobless rate rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September, but not because of swelling ranks of unemployed workers. Rather, more people returned to the labor market -- a positive sign that workers may be more confident about their job prospects.
For all that, the stronger-than-expected jobs report isn't likely to have a huge impact on the presidential vote.
The numbers were not eye-poppingly different from last month, and the vast majority of voters have already made up their minds about the economy, and more than 25 million Americans have cast their ballots, closing in on one-fifth of the likely turnout for Tuesday's election.