The unemployment rate in the nation hit a five-year low of 4.4 percent in October, the Department of Labor Statistics released today (view PDF). That’s down from 4.6 percent in September and 4.9 percent in October 2005. Numerically, the number of people unemployed has decreased by about 700,000 compared to last year.

With the midterm elections just a few sleeps away, Republicans haven’t lost any time claiming the rate decline as evidence of President Bush’s economic improvement, while Democrats point to slower-than-expected job growth as a reason to leave the cork in the champagne a little longer.

Here’s a taste of the argument from a Washington Post story today:

In a press release U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said the drop in unemployment showed the nation remained in the midst of “one of the longest periods of sustained economic expansion and job creation in our nation’s history” – a rebound from the technology bust and the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Democratic Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking member on the Joint Economic Committee, said that while the labor market was showing “some resilience” as the economy slowed, the number of jobs being added is below that of past recoveries. In addition, he said, the falling unemployment rate ignores about 4.3 million people who work part-time.

Total employment increased by 437,000 jobs in October, according to the report.

Click here for San Diego and California unemployment rates, which were reported a couple of weeks ago.


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