The US economy added 171,000 new jobs in October, which was much more than had been expected. But the official figures from the Labor Department showed that the unemployment rate still rose to 7.9%, having fallen to 7.8% in September, as more workers resumed the search for jobs. Only people who are currently looking for a job count as unemployed. Unemployment is one of the key issues ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election, the BBC reported. The figures were the last major set of economic data scheduled before the election and the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, has made the state of the jobs market one of the central planks of his campaign. “Today’s increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill,” he said. “The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23 million Americans struggling for work.” The number of jobs created in the previous two months was revised upwards, with an extra 34,000 jobs added in September and 50,000 added in August. Despite the new jobs, Barack Obama will still go to the polls with the highest rate of unemployment of any president seeking re-election since Franklin D Roosevelt. But the rise in the rate of unemployment may be seen as a sign of confidence in the economy, because it was caused by people who had given up looking for work returning to the job market, analysts say. The total workforce, which is the number of people either working or looking for jobs, rose 578,000 in October.