WASHINGTON (AP) — Employers added the most jobs in five months in October, with the education and health care sectors leading the way.
But the unemployment rate, measured by a separate survey of households, remained stuck at 9.6 percent for the third straight month.
The Labor Department said Friday its survey of employers showed a net gain of 151,000 jobs last month, the most since May. Wall Street analysts expected a smaller gain.
Private employers hired 159,000 workers, while governments at all levels shed only 8,000 jobs, a much better showing than September's sharp drop.
Employers also extended the average work week to 34.3 hours, up by one-tenth. The additional jobs and longer work week should boost Americans' incomes and provide fuel for more consumer spending, which drives about 70 percent of the economy.
The department also revised August and September's payroll figures higher. The private sector added 103,000 more jobs in those two months than previously estimated.
So far this year, the economy has added 874,000 jobs and over a million in the private sector. But that comes after the nation lost more than 8 million jobs in 2008 and 2009.
And about 14.8 million people say they were unemployed, a figure that hasn't improved much since the beginning of the year.
The job gains were concentrated in relatively few sectors: retailers added 27,900 positions, likely in preparation for the holiday season. Temporary agencies added 34,900. Restaurants and bars hired 24,400 people.
The construction industry added a small number of jobs, while the manufacturing sector shed 7,000 positions. Factory employment has been roughly unchanged since May.
The economy needs to add at least 100,000 net new jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. It will need to generate many more than that to cut into the unemployment rate, which has now topped 9.5 percent for 15 months.
The economy is growing, but at a weak pace. The Commerce Department said last month that gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's output, increased by 2 percent in the July-September period. That isn't fast enough to encourage much hiring.
High unemployment helped stoke voter anger in congressional elections earlier this week. The Republican Party took control of the House and made significant gains in the Senate.
And on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced a plan to buy $600 billion in Treasury bonds in an effort to accelerate economic growth. Those purchases are intended to lower interest rates on mortgages and other loans and spur more borrowing and spending.