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US Economy Adds 171K Jobs; Rate Rises To 7.9 Pct.

As Obama and Romney face voters, the economy "is showing incredible resilience in the face of significant challenges," said Marple, the TD Bank economist.

Tom Porcelli, an economist at RBC Capital Markets, was less enthusiastic. "The economy is not falling off a cliff, but it's not raging ahead with vigor, either," he said.

Investors also had a measured response. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note jumped to 1.78 percent from 1.72 percent, indicating investors were moving money out of bonds and into stocks, then dropped to 1.71 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed as much as 56 points but closed down 139 points, at 13,093.

The unemployment rate has fallen a full percentage point in the past year. But some of that was because people gave up looking for work, and therefore were no longer counted as unemployed.

That pushed the percentage of Americans working or looking for work to 63.5 percent in August, a 31-year low.

But since then, more Americans have started or resumed their job hunts, and most have found work. The percentage of Americans working or looking for work rose for a second straight month in October to 63.8 percent.

The number of people with part-time jobs who wanted full-time work dropped last month. And the number of people who have stopped looking for work also declined. The so-called underemployment rate, which consists of those two groups plus the unemployed, dipped to 14.6 percent from 14.7 percent.

The government's breakdown of October job growth showed that the housing market is finally generating jobs. Construction companies added 17,000, the most since January. Manufacturers added 13,000 after shedding 27,000 the previous two months.

Professional services such as architects and computer systems providers also added jobs. So did retailers, hotels and restaurants, and health care.

Vocus Inc., a Beltsville, Md., company that makes marketing software, has ramped up hiring this year to keep up with rapid growth in demand. It has nearly doubled its staff to about 750 and plans to add at least 200 next year.

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