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Originally published Friday, November 5, 2010 at 7:03 PM

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Economy adds more jobs in October, but jobless rate still stuck at 9.6%

The U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs in October, a number that might have drawn applause a year ago but now reminds economists and the out-of-work...

The Philadelphia Inquirer

The U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs in October, a number that might have drawn applause a year ago but now reminds economists and the out-of-work of the glacial pace of recovery and the huge journey to anything resembling a satisfactory level of employment.

The nation's jobless rate remained at 9.6 percent last month as the economy made its strongest showing in five months, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The private sector generated 159,000 jobs, but those gains were partly negated by declines in government employment, particularly on the local and state levels.

The number of jobs added is barely more than the 100,000 to 150,000 jobs economists say are necessary to keep up with population growth. And the gain is much less than what is needed to return the nation's 14.8 million unemployed to work.

The Labor Department said that since December 2009, employment has risen by 874,000 — a positive trend, but not nearly enough to restore the 8.4 million jobs lost between then and the recession's start in December 2007.

Friday's jobs report was the first since Tuesday's voter backlash against the Obama administration.

While buoyed by the improvement in the jobs situation, President Obama said it wasn't good enough.

"We need to accelerate our economic growth so that we are producing jobs at a faster pace," he said. "I am open to any idea, any proposal, any way we can get the economy growing faster, so that people who need work can find it faster."

Union and nonunion voters in 100 swing districts agreed that neither party is seen as having a clear plan for strengthening the economy, according to an Election Day poll by the AFL-CIO.

The majority, regardless of party, favor infrastructure spending, new tax credits for businesses that create jobs, and an extension of unemployment benefits.

The poll did not ask respondents about how these measures should be financed.

The unemployed are finding work, but on a very slow and piecemeal basis, according to some of the 80 career counselors who gathered Friday in Philadelphia for a meeting of the Association of Career Professionals.

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"There are no trends that anyone can point to," said Beth Wilson, who does career counseling in Media, Pa., and Philadelphia. "It's one job at a time."

Dolores Davis, of Philadelphia's Davis Associates Consulting Group, said the nation must change how business is done if there is going to be any real employment, especially for African Americans.

In October, the unemployment rate for African Americans was 15.7 percent, down from 16.1 percent, but still significantly higher than the nation's 9.6 percent rate, or the 8.8 percent for whites.

"There are no real jobs for the average person," Davis said.

She advocates incentives that would persuade American companies to return their overseas manufacturing to the United States.

"We have to make something if we want the economy to grow," she said.

The report showed expanded hiring in construction, which had been suffering. Manufacturing, which had been improving, lost jobs in nearly every subcategory. The only major uptick was in transportation equipment.

Retail hiring was up, as was professional and business services, although legal hiring fell. Educational and health services improved by 53,000 jobs, driving the month's positive numbers.

But local and state government hiring fell by 15,700 jobs, not counting teachers' jobs, which were up.

And, as federal unemployment-benefit extensions begin to phase out at the end of the month, long-term joblessness continues unabated. Four out of 10 unemployed people have been jobless for more than 27 weeks, and 2 million nationwide will exhaust their benefits by the end of the year.

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