US job gains topped expectations in October, official data showed Friday, as hiring remained resilient and wages moved ever higher even as unemployment edged up, underscoring the challenges in lowering rampant inflation. The data comes days ahead of midterm elections, where decades-high inflation has propelled economic issues to the top of voters’ minds and President Joe Biden faces a battle to avoid losing control of both chambers of Congress. The figures will provide little comfort to the Federal Reserve, which has been battling to cool the economy, as central bankers fear high prices will become entrenched and rising pay will create an upward spiral — inflicting more harm on families and businesses. American employers added 261,000 workers last month, far more than economists had forecast, though this eased from a revised 315,000 figure in September. The jobless rate rose two-tenths to 3.7 percent, the Labor Department said in its closely-watched US employment report. Average hourly earnings for private sector workers jumped another 12 cents or 0.4 percent, to $32.58, the data showed. Wages have increased 4.7 percent over the last 12 months as firms have had to compete to find and retain workers in the tight labor market. That pace is slightly slower than the pace in September — which the Fed will welcome — but many employees are pushing for increases to avoid losing ground to elevated consumer costs. “The bottom line here is that the labor market is softening, but has not yet reached the point where the data are screaming at the Fed to stop tightening,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in an analysis. But he added that if the labor market trends continue, markets will start to push policymakers to “rethink the idea of continued hikes next year.” On Friday, the report said there were notable job gains in health care, professional and technical services, and manufacturing. The Fed has raised borrowing rates six times this year to cool demand, but there have been few signs it is having an impact on consumer spending or inflation. While the policy tightening normally would be expected to lead to job losses, economists say employers are reluctant to shed workers that they struggled to find. “The data are still showing strong positive momentum in the labor market which is not yet showing much adjustment in response to a rapid tightening of monetary policy,” said Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics. “These data will keep the Fed on track to keep raising rates into restrictive territory,” she said in an analysis.