Job numbers are hot topic on campaign trail

The candidates are campaigning hard during the final days.
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Friday's job numbers will likely be a big topic on the presidential campaign trail.

US employers added 171,000 jobs in October and hiring was stronger over the previous two months than first thought. The unemployment rate inched up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September because the work force grew.

The Labor Department's last look at hiring before Tuesday's election sketched a picture of a job market that is gradually gaining momentum after nearly stalling in the spring.

Since July, the economy has created an average of 173,000 jobs a month, up from 67,000 a month from April through June.

Still, President Barack Obama will face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt. The rate ticked up because more people without jobs started looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively searching.

Obama calls the new numbers real progress, while rival Mitt Romney says the economy is at a virtual standstill.

"This is a great report," said Mark Zandi, Moody's Analytics.

"It is consistent with some of the consumer confidence numbers but it also illustrates the break we've seen. Consumers have been saying we've got more jobs, we're feeling better about the economy," said Diane Swonk, Mesirow Financial.

Both candidates land in Ohio Friday. So far, here's what their travel schedules look like: Gov. Mitt Romney visits seven states including a rally in Ohio Friday night with 100 supporters, including politicians and celebrities.

At a rally in Virginia Thursday night, a make-up from before Hurricane Sandy, he argued the president's running out of steam:

"He was just the other day talking about saving characters on Sesame Street and playing word games with my name and attacking me on a regular basis - attacks that he knows aren't true," said Romney.

President Obama also hits seven states between now and Election Day - with a focus on Ohio, his "must-win" state. Right now Ohio is leaning slightly towards Obama.

He'll be there every day between now and the election making his closing argument, highlighting higher home prices and victories overseas:

"Al Qaeda has been decimated. Osama bin Laden is dead. So we've made real progress these past four years," said Obama.

So how will it shake out Tuesday?

"I think Romney has a 50-50 chance to win the popular vote. I just think it's harder to see him winning the electoral vote," said Stu Rothenberg, analyst for the Rothenberg Political Report.

A nation already deeply divided is anxious to end what's been a very long campaign.