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US Adds 204K Jobs, Unemployment Rises To 7.3 Pct.

Duncan has boosted his 400-member workforce by about 2 percent in the past three months.

"I think everyone's kind of numb to it," Duncan said, referring to the budget battles in Washington.

More important to Duncan has been a spate of remodeling by hotel chains, many of which had postponed upgrades until recently. Sales have risen as a result.

Economists differed over how the robust jobs report might influence the Fed. Some said it probably isn't sufficient for the Fed to slow its $85-billion-a-month bond-buying program when it meets Dec. 17-18.

"The one month of job growth is not enough to allow them to pull the trigger," said Patrick O'Keefe, director of economic research at CohnReznick.

But Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, disagreed, writing in a research note: "In our opinion, the data would justify the Fed reducing the pace of its asset purchases in December."

The report showed that employers added an average of 202,000 jobs a month from August through October a¿¿ up sharply from an average of 146,000 from May through July. And they added 45,000 more jobs in August and 15,000 more in September than the government previously estimated.

Private businesses added 212,000 jobs last month. That was the most since February. By contrast, federal government jobs fell by 12,000.

Many retailers are optimistic about consumers' willingness to spend more during the holiday shopping season. Wal-Mart is hiring 55,000 seasonal workers, up from 50,000 last year.

One troubling detail in the report: The percentage of Americans working or looking for work fell to a 35-year low.

That figure may have been temporarily worsened by the shutdown. Even so, it suggests many Americans are discouraged about their prospects for finding a job.

Nearly 4.1 million Americans have been out of work for six months or more. That figure has tripled since the recession began in December 2007. The long-term unemployed represent more than a third of the 11.3 million people out of work.

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