WASHINGTON – U.S. employment surged much more than expected last month as private companies hired workers at the fastest pace since April, a sign the sluggish economy is finally starting to tick up.
Nonfarm payrolls rose a solid 151,000 in October, the first gain since May and more than double economists' expectations, a Labor Department report showed on Friday. Private hiring rose by 159,000, while the government cut only 8,000 jobs.
Concern over the anemic job market was a factor behind the Federal Reserve's decision this week to pump an additional $600 billion into the economy through government bond purchases to push interest rates down and stimulate demand.
Analysts said the data was not strong enough to knock the Fed off its new policy course, but it tempered speculation the central bank might have to step up its bond buying.
"The report confirms the economy is regaining momentum and provides an encouraging signal of business confidence," said Aaron Smith, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Data for August and September also was revised to show 110,000 fewer jobs were lost than previously estimated. Private payrolls have grown above 100,000 for each of the last four months and are now up 1.1 million since December.
The upbeat data drew a mixed reaction from U.S. financial markets. U.S. stocks slipped as investors pocketed profits after shares hit a two-year high on Thursday, while the dollar rallied and government debt prices fell as traders reined in bets on a further easing of monetary policy.
While the department's survey of employers found solid job growth, a more volatile survey of households showed losses and the unemployment rate remained stuck at a painfully high 9.6 percent for a third straight month.