President Obama has hailed a surprise fall in the US unemployment rate to the lowest level since he took office.
It has given his re-election campaign a much-needed boost in a week in which his performance in the first TV debate was seen as lacklustre.
In September 114,000 more people found work as the jobless rate fell to 7.8 per cent.
“There are too many middle-class families that are still struggling to pay the bills — they were struggling long before the crisis hit. But today’s news certainly is not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points. It’s a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now,” Barack Obama told supporters in Fairfax, Virginia.
The Republican candidate put in a powerful performance in the TV debate. The jobs report may stall the new momentum in Mitt Romney’s campaign.
He claimed the new figures did not suggest the economy was on the mend, and put forward a different interpretation on why the unemployment rate had fallen.
“The reason it’s come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work. And if you just drop out of the work force, if you just give up and say look I can’t go back to work, I’m just going to stay home, if you just drop out all together, why you are no longer part of the employment statistics,” said Mitt Romney, also speaking in Virginia in the town of Abingdon.
The fall of 0.3 per cent in the jobless rate came after Americans returned to the labour market following the summer lull.
Economists say the overall picture is still mixed. One industry boss suggested in a tweet that the job figures had been massaged – a claim dismissed by the US labour minister as “ludicrous”.