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News Wrap: October hiring surge pushes down unemployment to seven-year low

In our news wrap Friday, employers added 271,000 jobs in the month of October, according to the Labor Department. The strong jobs report leaves the door open to a possible interest rate hike next month. Also, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a fourth case challenging the Affordable Care Act over religious-affiliated institutions providing contraceptive coverage to employees.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Hiring surged in the United States in October after two lackluster months. The Labor Department reported employers added 271,000 jobs. That’s the most for one month since December.

    This helped push the unemployment rate down to 5 percent, the lowest it’s been in seven years. At the same time, the proportion of Americans in the labor force was unchanged, at around 62 percent. Today’s strong data left the door open to a possible interest rate hike when Federal Reserve Bank policy-makers meet next month.

    On Wall Street, stocks failed to get much of a boost out of the jobs report. The Dow Jones industrial average gained just under 47 points to close at 17910. The Nasdaq rose 19 points, and the S&P 500 lost a fraction of a point. For the week, all three major indexes gained nearly 1 percent or more.

    President Obama rejected the Keystone XL oil pipeline proposal today, ending a protracted debate and handing a big victory to environmentalists. The controversial pipeline would have permitted oil from Canada’s tar sands to flow to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. The president said the project would have undermined American efforts to secure a global climate change deal. We will take a closer look at the impact of his decision right after the news summary.

    The Supreme Court agreed today to hear a fourth case challenging President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. This time, the court will decide whether religious-affiliated institutions like universities and hospitals should be free from playing any role in providing employees contraceptive coverage. The president’s health care overhaul currently mandates that those institutions request exemption from insurers.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that he was confident they would win the legal challenge.

  • JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:

    The policy that we have in place appropriately balances the need for millions of Americans to have access to birth control while also protecting the right of religious freedom that is protected in our Constitution.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The high court will hear arguments in March.

    There was word today the Obama administration plans to open new screening centers to increase the number of Syrians taking refuge in the U.S. Reuters, citing unnamed officials, reported the outposts will be located in Iraq and Lebanon. President Obama had already vowed to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. in 2016. It’s not clear how many more will now be taken in.

    Greek ferry workers called off strikes today, clearing the way for thousands of refugees and other migrants to continue their journeys to the Greek mainland. The first ships arrived in a port near Athens this morning. The strike, which began Monday, stranded some 25,000 asylum seekers in cramped conditions on small Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. The ferry workers were protesting new austerity measures under Greece’s bailout.

    Rescue teams in Southeastern Brazil today desperately searched for survivors in a remote village engulfed in mud after dams from a nearby mining complex burst. The iron ore mine’s president said the two dams failed yesterday before nightfall. Sludge flooded a community downstream, swallowing homes and cars in thick mud. At least two people died, and dozens more are still missing. Residents said no one alerted them to the danger.

  • WOMAN (through interpreter):

    It was worse than a tsunami, what happened to house. Everyone was shouting. There was no alarm to warn us that the dam had broken. Those who managed to save themselves ran or got on a truck that drove by and asked people to hop on. Everyone was panicking. About 60 people were riding on the truck, and the rest were left behind.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It’s still not clear what caused the ruptures, but mine officials said that seismic activity was reported in the region shortly beforehand.

    Politicians were out in force in Myanmar today, the last day of campaigning before the country, formerly known as Burma, holds its first relatively free elections in 25 years. Hundreds gathered for rallies as candidates and their supporters distributed fliers to potential voters.

    Meanwhile, election officials set up polling stations in advance of Sunday’s vote. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party is expected to win the most votes over its military-backed rival.

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