Unemployment Rate Falls to 6.0 Percent; Payrolls Soar

The U.S. economy added more than twice the number of jobs expected in October and the jobless rate fell, the government said on Friday in a report offering many signs of broad job market recovery.

The Labor Department (search) also made substantial upward revisions to non-farm payrolls (search) for August and September, a sign sizzling economic growth in the third quarter translated into more jobs.

"We can finally put the nail in the coffin of the jobless recovery," said Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics. "We are back on a rising job track."

"Obviously there were very good numbers across the board. More important, though, are the big revisions in August and September upward. Suddenly, here we are with three positive months," said Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial in New York.

The number of workers on U.S. payrolls outside the farm sector in October soared 126,000, the largest rise since January, after climbing 125,000 in the previous month. The number far outstripped analyst expectations for a 58,000 gain.

The unemployment rate fell to 6.0 percent, the lowest since April, from 6.1 percent in September. That also beat economist forecasts for the jobless rate to remain unchanged.

Broader economic signs have been on an upward path for several weeks.

The economy grew at a blockbuster 7.2 percent pace in the third quarter of the year. But partly due to huge productivity gains, the job market has been lagging other areas.

The positive employment picture is great news for the holiday season. Consumer confidence should spike, making shoppers more willing to open their wallets. That will help reduce business inventory and lead to new jobs.

Still, the gloom isn't over for all American workers. About 8.8 million remained unemployed last month, with about 2 million without jobs for 27 weeks or more.

The improvement could benefit President Bush, who will be up for re-election next November. Democrats had hoped to use the lack of new jobs as a political issue to win back the White House, and indeed the election is still a year away.

"The most likely scenario is, we'll get enough jobs so it won't be the issue Democrats need to oust the president," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com.

A large portion of the payrolls increase came from the service sector, which added 143,000 jobs, the largest climb since January. The Labor Department said a grocery strike and lockout affecting 70,000 workers in Southern California had a net positive impact on employment.

But the hard-hit manufacturing sector continued to shed jobs in October -- 24,000 -- and it was the 37th consecutive month of declines in that area. The pace of job loss, however, has slowed considerably.

The retail trade sector added 30,000 jobs, the education and health services sector created 56,000 jobs and professional and business services rose by 43,000.

In an encouraging sign for the months ahead, the number of hours worked increased to 33.8 in October from 33.7 in September. When companies are poised to boost hiring they often increase the hours worked by their current staff first.

Average hourly earnings also rose, rising to $15.46 from $15.45 the prior month.

Speaking on Thursday after the Labor Department reported a surprisingly large drop in the number of Americans claiming jobless benefits, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (search) said the chances of a job growth pick-up were rising.

However, the Fed chief signaled U.S. interest rates are likely to remain low for some time. At its last policy-setting meeting on Oct. 28, the Fed kept its key federal funds target rate at a 45-year low of 1 percent and said it could hold it there for a considerable period.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.