Dow futures turned positive Friday after a strong government employment report and news that Democrat Joe Biden pulled ahead of President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania in addition to Georgia. The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Thursday rose 542 points or nearly 2%. The S&P 500 also climbed 2%, while the Nasdaq advanced 2.6%. For the week so far, the Dow and S&P 500 were each up more than 7% and the Nasdaq was up nearly 9%.
Employment growth was better than expected in October and the unemployment rate feel sharply even as the U.S. faces the challenge of surging coronavirus cases and the impact they could have on the nascent economic recovery.
The Labor Department reported Friday that nonfarm payrolls increased by 638,000 and the unemployment rate was at 6.9%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for a payroll gain of 530,000 and an unemployment rate of 7.7%, a touch lower than September's level.
On the road to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Biden was still 17 votes away. But in addition to pulling slightly ahead in Georgia, the former vice president flipped to a lead in Pennsylvania on Friday morning. Biden also led in Arizona and Nevada as of Friday. Trump was still leading in North Carolina.
With multiple paths to the presidency, Biden has been urging patience with the vote counting, saying Thursday, "the process is working." By contrast, as Trump's chances for reelection appeared to dim further, the president Thursday leveled a barrage of election allegations without any evidence. NBC, ABC and CBS all cut away during Trump's remarks.
Democrats will keep their House majority, according to NBC News. But after a series of rough early returns, the party will likely have fewer seats in January than it does now. House Democrats on Thursday cast blame on their election messaging and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the stumbles. While the balance of power in the Senate remained too close to call, it does appear that Republicans will hold on to their majority. Several races are outstanding, but two Georgia runoffs could tip the scales.
The U.S. recorded 121,888 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, the highest single-day increase ever. New daily infections topped 100,000 for the first time Wednesday, with 102,831 confirmed.
Even the seven-day average was nearing 95,000 new daily cases, an almost 24% increase from the previous seven-day period. Twenty-seven states hit record high new cases Thursday. The U.S. has more than 9.6 million total Covid-19 cases, with deaths from the disease approaching 235,000.
— NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.