After giving a soft performance in August, the labor market came back strong last month, knocking the national unemployment rate down below the 6.0 percent mark for the first time in more than six years.
According to the latest monthly figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation added 248,000 jobs in September, bringing employment growth back above 200,000 after an unexpected drop in August.
Economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal predicted the economy would add 215,000 jobs last month.
Meanwhile, payroll figures for July and August were revised upward to 243,000 and 180,000, respectively, tacking on an additional 69,000 jobs to their original estimates. Over the last year, monthly job growth has averaged 213,000.
With the latest estimate, the government puts the U.S. unemployment rate at 5.9 percent, its lowest since July 2008.
Despite the good news in September's report, the headline numbers mask a few less encouraging movements, the biggest of which is a drop in the labor force participation rate to 62.7 percent—the lowest rate in decades—as more Americans abandoned their search for work. Among that group—totaling more than 2.2 million—nearly 700,000 gave up looking because they don't believe there are any jobs available for them.
Factoring in those populations and the 7.1 million Americans employed part-time for economic reasons, BLS put the "U-6" unemployment rate at 11.8 percent for September, double the headline figure.
Despite those problem signs, Friday's report all but ensures leaders at the Federal Reserve will vote to end the central bank's bond buying program in their next meeting later this month.
Other indicators in the September report were mixed. After months of flatness, the average workweek for private employees squeaked up to 34.6 hours. At the same time, average hourly earnings slipped a cent to $24.53.