TheBlaze’s Billy Hallowell contributed to this report:

The Labor Department announced Friday the economy added only 171,000 jobs last month, pushing the unemployment rate to 7.9 percent​, up from 7.8 percent in September.

This is the final jobs report before the country decides whether it wants to re-elect President Barack Obama or give Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney a shot at the White House.

Seeing as how his opponent has based his entire campaign on economic issues (as opposed to, say, protecting birth control from non-existent confiscatory policies), an uptick in unemployment and a sparse 171K jobs won’t help the president’s re-election bid.

Prepare to see today’s numbers be both defended and attacked in media and political circles, alike.

For example, literally minutes after the release, the left-leaning POLITICO already had a headline pooh-poohing the report (“Little political ammunition in data from October jobs numbers”). However, considering what the report actually means, that job growth is just above stagnation, that incomes continue to decline, that the unemployment rate is dropping only for government workers, that’s there’s chronic unemployment, and, oh yeah, that we’re nowhere near that 5.2 percent unemployment rate the White House said we’d have by now, we’d say there’s at least a ​little ​political ammo to be found.

Too bad for the president there wasn’t a repeat of the September jobs report.

The U.S. economy in September added 114,000 new jobs and saw the unemployment rate fall to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent. While many heralded the positive direction in which the economy may be moving, questions surrounded the numbers — and the upswing. With unemployment dropping to a 44-month low just before an election took form, critics became vocal.

Financial guru Jack Welch, among them, spoke out fervently against the government numbers. CNBC, too, noticed the following oddities:

The report presented a slew of contradictory data points, with the total employment level soaring despite the low net number.

The falling jobless rate had been a function as much of the continued shrinking in the labor force as it was an increase in new positions.

But the government said the total number of jobs employed surged by 873,000, the highest one-month jump in 29 years. The total of unemployed people tumbled by 456,000.

The labor force participation rate, which reflects those working as well as looking for work, edged higher to 63.6 percent but remained around 30-year lows. The total labor force grew by 418,000, possibly accounting for the relatively modest net level of job growth.

Economists were expecting 113,000 more jobs and the rate to rise to 8.2 percent. Last month saw 142,000 new jobs as the rate dropped from 8.3 percent in July.

Despite critique that raged throughout last month, today’s numbers provide new fodder and points of discussion.

Final Thought: Considering there’s a real possibility this will be President Obama’ final jobs report, today’s numbers mean he will leave office with a higher unemployment rate than when he was inaugurated (7.8 percent).

Labor Dept.: October Unemployment Rate up to 7.9 PercentSo there’s that.

UPDATE — Following the release of the Labor Department report, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued the following statement:

Today’s increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill. The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23 million Americans struggling for work. On Tuesday, America will make a choice between stagnation and prosperity.

Meanwhile, according to one reporter, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is absolutely thrilled with the new report:

(However, to be fair, we’re not absolutely certain that’s the reason Solis was handing out candy. Our best guess is that she had leftovers from Halloween and wanted to share.)

And Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger explains the unemployment rate increased up because because more people want to work:

The labor force rose by 578,000 people in October, and the labor force participation rate increased by 0.2 percentage point. The share of the population employed rose by 0.1 percentage point to 58.8 percent. Over the last 12 months, the unemployment rate has decreased by 1.0 percentage point, as a result of growing employment.

… to create more jobs in particularly hard-hit sectors, President Obama continues to urge Congress to pass elements of the American Jobs Act, including further investment in infrastructure to rebuild our Nation’s ports, roads and highways, and assistance to State and local governments to prevent layoffs and to enable them to rehire hundreds of thousands of teachers

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Front page photo source courtesy the AP. This story has been updated.