Gold prices could see support from an unlikely quarter if Federal Reserve economists pay closer attention to the reality of U.S. unemployment behind headline figures, according to a HSBC Holdings PLC (LON:HSBA) research note.

“Gold is likely to remain supported by the Fed’s stance to keep monetary policy highly accommodative, in our view, in addition to the possibility of QE ‘tapering’ to be delayed,” HSBC precious metals analysts James Steel and Howard Wen wrote Monday in a research note.

According to one HSBC economist, underemployment as well as unemployment are key measures that Fed officials should take into account.  

Although the headline unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent on Tuesday, if workers who aren’t actively searching but still want a job are included, unemployment is likely closer to 9 percent, according to HSBC economist Karen Ward.

Since the Federal Reserve has tied any reduction in its current $85 billion-per-month bond buying -- a prospect seen as bearish for gold -- to lower unemployment, the pace of authentic labor market gains is crucial for gold investors.

“The headline unemployment rate suggests it will be some time before the Fed meaningfully moves to the brake, but accounting for other measures of slack one can conclude we are even further away,” read the note, citing Ward’s arguments.

Gold enjoyed a minor rally on Tuesday, after a delayed U.S. unemployment report showed only 148,000 jobs were added in September, well below analyst expectations.

Gold prices moved upward just before the jobs report, HSBC analyst Howard Wen told International Business Times, but the rally is not likely to last too long or stretch much higher.

“Now the focus is going to be on the upcoming FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] meeting,” Wen told IBTimes.

That meeting is scheduled for Oct. 29-30. Thanks to the lackluster jobs figures, economists at London’s Capital Economics and Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) now expect tapering to be delayed until early 2014, again a positive signal for gold.

The Fed’s surprise decision to delay tapering in September threw gold markets into disarray, and left traders uncertain, wary and confused, with low trading volumes seen in gold markets recently.