A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday after Wednesday's first presidential debate showed Romney gained ground and is now viewed positively by 51 percent of voters. Obama's favorability rating remained unchanged at 56 percent.
The surprise drop in the jobless rate led former General Electric CEO Jack Welch to suggest in a tweet that the numbers had somehow been doctored. "These Chicago guys will do anything," he said in a reference to Obama's campaign operation. Welch is a Reuters columnist.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told CNBC that the notion the jobless rate was manipulated for political purposes was "ludicrous."
FED LIKELY TO KEEP FOOT ON THE GAS
Persistently poor labor market conditions led the Fed in September to announce a plan to buy $40 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities each month until it sees a sustained turnaround in employment.
Despite the brighter signs on the jobs market, the central bank is unlikely to back off its stimulus anytime soon. After its September meeting, it said it planned to keep an easy policy in place for "a considerable time" after the recovery strengthened.
The Fed's ultra-easy stance has started to free up credit, supporting retail sales and construction.
Retail employment rose by 9,400, while construction added 5,000 jobs. Record low mortgages rates on the back of the Fed's monetary stimulus have spurred homebuilding.
Government payrolls rose 10,000 after increasing 45,000 in August.
However, temporary help jobs, which are often seen as a harbinger for permanent hiring, fell 2,000, and manufacturing payrolls dropped 16,000, a second straight monthly decline.
Average hourly earnings rose 7 cents last month, which could support spending, and the length of the average work week also increased slightly, another sign of strength.