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Jobless rate dips to 9 percent, but problems persist

In this Nov. 2, 2011 photo, Clarence Turner of Little Canada, Minn., hands in his resume at the Minneapolis Career Fair held in Bloomington, Minn., where he was looking for a hotel audit job, preferably on the night shift, to help juggle family life with a baby. Hiring slowed in October as employers faced more uncertainty over future economic growth. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The October national jobs report, which revealed a dip in the unemployment rate and greater job creation than previously thought, also showed problems persisting, despite that good news.

The unemployment rate slid to 9 percent in October from 9.1 percent in September as the economy added 80,000 net new jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. The private sector added 104,000 jobs.

The report also showed the economy created 102,000 more jobs in August and September than previously reported.

“The labor market looks like it has stabilized after deteriorating earlier in the year; that’s the good news,” said Chicago-based Mesirow Financial Chief Economist Diane Swonk. “The bad news is it’s not enough.”

Economists surveyed by FactSet, a provider of financial data, had expected a gain of 100,000 jobs last month. It takes about 125,000 jobs a month to keep up with population growth.

“We’re not growing real fast, but we’re not falling off a cliff either,” said Robert Johnson, economist at Morningstar Inc. in Chicago.

But too many uncertainties are keeping employers from accelerating hiring, according to Swonk. The report showed 13.9 million people remain unemployed.

Employers “don’t want to commit to too many employees because they don’t want to have to turn around and fire them down the road,” she said. “The vision is still very poor in terms of how many icebergs there are ahead that we have to dodge, and there are certainly plenty of them.”

Among them she said are the debt crisis in Europe, the U.S. debt problem and the lack of a long-term austerity plan to deal with it, concerns about what the congressional super committee will actually produce and the absence of a near-term stimulus plan to boost the economy.

The report revealed the number of long-term unemployed, those jobless for 27 weeks or more, dropped by 366,000 to 5.9 million. But it’s too soon to tell if that’s something to cheer about, according to Swonk.

“It’s unclear that they got jobs,” she said. “We still don’t know that…Maybe they’re moving into retirement now. We’re now hitting a point where many of the baby boomers can take early Social Security. That may be happening as they try to opt out at 62 instead of 65, so they at least have some kind of money coming in.”

President Barack Obama, appearing at the G-20 economic summit in Cannes, France said the U.S. economy is growing “way too slow.” He repeated his call for Republicans in Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs bill, a mix of tax cuts and spending on roads and rail lines.

“There’s no excuse for inaction,” he said.

Republicans in the Senate on Thursday defeated the infrastructure portion of Obama’s proposal. GOP lawmakers opposed the bill’s tax surcharge on the wealthy and the additional spending.

Republicans laid blame on Obama and Democrats in Congress.

“At virtually every step of the way, President Obama and Democrats have increased uncertainty,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. “This has discouraged businesses from making new investments.”

The report showed industry sectors adding jobs last month included professional and business services, up 32,000; leisure and hospitality, up 22,000, health care, up 12,000; and manufacturing, up 5,000.

Government employment sank by 24,000 jobs, and construction fell by 20,000 jobs.

The report revealed the unemployment rate for blacks fell to 15.1 percent from 16 percent and fell among Asians to 7.3 percent from 7.8 percent. The rate among Hispanics rose to 11.4 percent from 11.3 percent, and the rate among whites was unchanged at 8 percent.

Contributing: AP