October employment numbers reflect slow, steady growth

The monthly jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning shows the country is advancing steadily but slowly on the jobs front, and the healthcare sector continues to be one of the markets showing regular growth.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 171,000 in October, reported BLS, the unemployment rate at 7.9 percent and the number of unemployed persons (12.3 million) were essentially unchanged from September.

Healthcare added about 31,000 jobs in October, with gains of approximately 25,000 in ambulatory care – slightly more than 11,000 in physicians’ offices, just over 6,000 in hospitals, nearly 2,000 in outpatient care centers and nearly 8,000 in home health. The only healthcare segment to lose jobs (about 600) was nursing and residential care. BLS noted that over the last year, healthcare employment has risen by 296,000.

With just four days to the election, today’s employment numbers were eagerly awaited, and with the better-than-expected jobs gains, many analysts are saying the report leans in the president’s favor.

As the New York Times noted, even though job growth has been modest, today’s numbers mark 25 straight months of gains.

That slow but steady growth trend may be enough to make this jobs report “the single most motivating event to take place at this point in the campaign,” wrote CNN’s Ali Velshi Friday morning.

Velshi argues that the trend indicates the country is moving in the right direction – creating jobs. “It is to President Obama’s advantage if you subscribe to trend and Mitt Romney’s if you think it is too slow,” Velshi wrote. “But it is pointing in the right way.”

President Barack Obama will be able to point to the steady growth, wrote Susan Page on USA Today’s website, as well as to the decline in the numbers of Americans who stopped looking for work out of discouragement (813,000 in October, a decline of 154,000 from October 2011).

Romney, though, Page noted, can look to the report to make arguments in his own favor, namely that the jobless rate remains high and there is still no growth in household income.

Earlier in the week, there were some reports that the BLS would delay the release of the employment numbers due to superstorm Sandy, which shut down the federal government for two days.

The Los Angeles Times reported that behind the talk of a delay of the release of the jobs numbers was a concern from some quarters that the Obama administration wanted to withhold potentially negative information about the economy just days before the election.

The BLS confirmed Wednesday that the numbers would be released on time. The agency noted in its employment report Friday that Sandy did not impact the employment data because it was collected before the storm hit.