In the final jobs report before election day, October’s national unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent. The United States economy added 161,000 jobs, according to statistics released by the Labor Department.
94,609,000 Americans are now not in the labor force, up slightly from 94,184,000 in September.
The labor force participation rate is 69.2 percent down from 69.3 percent in September.
The economy is growing at the slowest pace of any in a recovery since World War II. Growth picked up to a 2.9 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, the government has estimated, much faster than the 1.1 percent pace for the first half of the year. But most analysts foresee only modest expansion in the October-December quarter, leaving growth at an anemic rate of about 1.8 percent for all of 2016.
Hiring in October was led by professional and business services, a category that includes mostly higher-paying jobs in engineering, accounting and information technology. Those added 43,000 jobs, followed by health care firms, which gained 39,100.
One surprise was in the retail sector, which shed 1,100 workers last month, a time when hiring typically ramps up for the winter holidays.
The unemployment rate fell in part because many of those out of work stopped searching for jobs and were no longer counted as unemployed. Their exodus lowered the number of unemployed by 150,000 to 7.8 million and pushed down the rate. The proportion of Americans who either have a job or are looking for one fell slightly.
Businesses, though, have been cutting their spending on machinery, computers and other equipment. They have reduced such spending for the past four quarters — the longest such stretch since the recession officially ended in mid-2009.
Manufacturers cut 9,000 jobs last month and have shed more than 50,000 in the past year. That slowdown may reflect jitters about the election and uncertainties about the next president’s economic policies.
The cutbacks have slowed factory output for the past year. Orders for manufactured goods have dropped 2.3 percent in 2016 compared with last year. That’s a big reason factories have shed nearly 50,000 jobs in the past 12 months.