Job growth fell short of forecasts in October, but other employment indicators showed modest improvements for the labor market.
U.S. employers added 214,000 jobs last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday morning. Economists had expected payrolls would increase by 240,000, a slight decline from September's preliminary estimate of 248,000 new jobs added.
Meanwhile, the government revised its estimates for payroll growth in August and September, bringing those totals up to 203,000 and 256,000, respectively. With the latest revision to August, job growth has topped 200,000 every month this year except January.
As of the end of October, BLS estimates the national unemployment rate was 5.8 percent, down from 5.9 percent to a new six-year low. Economists had anticipated no change.
Among the nearly nine million Americans counted as unemployed in the government's survey, an estimated 2.9 million were jobless for more than 27 weeks, down slightly from September. Over the past year, BLS says the number of long-term unemployed has dropped off by 1.1 million.
The number of Americans classified as "marginally attached" to the labor force—defined as those who are not in the labor force but who have sought work in the last year—also fell slightly, dipping to 2.2 million after a jump in September. At the same time, the number of people who gave up looking for work climbed, hitting an estimated 770,000.
Overall, the labor force participation rate nudged up, though it still remains historically low at 62.8 percent.
The drop in the unemployment rate came in the same month that policymakers at the Federal Reserve made the decision to end the central bank's bond purchasing program that began more than two years ago.
While broader labor indicators (including the U-6 unemployment rate, which figures in marginally attached workers and those employed part-time for economic reasons) still show some slack, the direction of the market may spur the Fed to move its timeline for raising interest rates forward.
"This is a strong report that suggests the first rate hike is coming sooner than many expect," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics. "We expect the Fed to start tightening in March next year."