The Labor Department said that since December 2009, employment has risen by 874,000 - a positive trend, but not nearly enough to restore the 8.4 million jobs lost between then and the recession's start in December 2007.
Friday's jobs report was the first since Tuesday's voter backlash against the Obama administration.
While buoyed by the improvement in the jobs situation, President Obama said it wasn't good enough.
"We need to accelerate our economic growth so that we are producing jobs at a faster pace," he said. "I am open to any idea, any proposal, any way we can get the economy growing faster, so that people who need work can find it faster."
Union and nonunion voters in 100 swing districts agreed that neither party is seen as having a clear plan for strengthening the economy, according to an Election Day poll by the AFL-CIO.
The majority, regardless of party, favor infrastructure spending, new tax credits for businesses that create jobs, and an extension of unemployment benefits. The poll did not ask respondents about how these measures should be financed.
The unemployed are finding work, but on a very slow and piecemeal basis, according to some of the 80 area career counselors gathered at the Cira Centre on Friday for a meeting of the Association of Career Professionals.
"There are no trends that anyone can point to," said Beth Wilson, who does career counseling in Media and Philadelphia. "It's one job at a time."
Dolores Davis, of Philadelphia's Davis Associates Consulting Group, said the nation must change how business is done if there is going to be any real employment, especially for African Americans.
In October, the unemployment rate for African Americans was 15.7 percent, down from 16.1 percent, but still significantly higher than the nation's 9.6 percent rate, or the 8.8 percent for whites.
"There are no real jobs for the average person," Davis said. She advocates incentives that would persuade American companies to return their overseas manufacturing to the United States.
"We have to make something if we want the economy to grow," she said.
The report showed expanded hiring in construction, which had been suffering. Manufacturing, which had been improving, lost jobs in nearly every subcategory. The only major uptick was in transportation equipment.
Retail hiring was up, as was professional and business services, although legal hiring fell. Educational and health services improved by 53,000 jobs, driving the month's positive numbers.
However, local and state government hiring fell by 15,700 jobs, not counting teachers' jobs, which were up. That situation is likely to get worse. Last week, Gov. Christie said he planned to reduce the New Jersey government workforce by 1,200 jobs early next year.
And, as federal unemployment-benefit extensions begin to phase out at the end of the month, long-term joblessness continues unabated. Four out of 10 unemployed people have been jobless for more than 27 weeks, and two million nationwide will exhaust their benefits by the end of the year.
In signs of an improved outlook, employers have picked up their recruiting efforts at college campuses, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in Bethlehem, Pa.
"The October hiring index indicates improvement in the job market for new college graduates," said Marilyn Mackes, executive director.
Also, Monster.com reports that online job postings are up nationally, year-over-year, with postings for jobs in the Philadelphia region outpacing those in the rest of the nation. Monster.com saw increased postings in transportation, production, health care, office and administrative support, and legal.
Although some trends are positive, the job situation is still dire for many.
Among the newly laid-off in October were 98 employees of Main Line Health.
Government officials and employees are trying to persuade Express Scripts Inc. not to close down its two distribution facilities in Bensalem. If both close, about 900 pharmacists, customer-service representatives, and warehouse workers will lose their jobs, possibly by December.
In Philadelphia, 300 people showed up over three days to apply for 40 jobs at Kokopelli Restaurant & Tequila Bar, which is scheduled to open later this month. Only half of the bartender, cook, dishwasher, server, and management slots were full-time jobs, and only six included benefits.
"It's unbelievable how many people came in," said Adam Solomon, managing partner. "People are just so hungry for a job right now."
Solomon estimated that 70 percent of the applicants were unemployed, and he was shocked to see how many were "stepping down," or looking for jobs beneath their level of experience or education.
"It doesn't do them or you justice to hire them unless you have a goal for them to achieve," he said.
Labor economists keep waiting for a decline in productivity - a sign that the workers who kept their jobs have reached their limits trying to pick up the duties of their laid-off colleagues.
A sustained decline in productivity coupled with an increased demand for goods and services will force employers to hire.
But productivity increased 1.9 percent in the third quarter, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
That's where Philadelphia career counselor Helen Richardson, president of the local chapter of the career professionals, said she was seeing some growth in her business.
People lucky enough to have jobs are stressed and overworked, she said at the Cira Centre. They turn to her to learn better ways to deal with their bosses and new skills so they can work more efficiently.
"Some of them, in actuality, are being enriched by the situation," she said.
That's the lemonade-out-of-lemons outlook. But the lemons remain. Those with jobs have to figure out how to cope and succeed "because the job market is not as fluid as it was in the past."
Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or firstname.lastname@example.org.