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U.S. economy added 250,000 jobs in October; unemployment stays low

The U.S. economy added 250,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate remains historically low, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday.

The figure surpassed analysts' expectations by about 50,000 jobs.

Part of the surprise had to do with Hurricane Michael, which hit northern Florida and parts of the Gulf region last month. The storm devastated several coastal communities but had "no discernible effect" on national employment, the Labor report said.

Economists, though, said Michael and Hurricane Florence did have measurable impacts. Employment fell by 39,000 in North Carolina and South Carolina, which took the brunt of Florence in late September. Jobless claims rose by 10,000 in Florida and Georgia, where Michael landed.

Nationally, though, unemployment remains at 3.7 percent, the lowest since 1969.

Over the last year, the unemployment rate has fallen 0.4 percent, which represents nearly 450,000 people.

"The labor market is definitely healthy and we're bringing more people into the labor force," Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West, told The New York Times.

Department figures showed labor force participation rate increased by 0.2 percent, to 62.9 percent, last month, remaining steady for the year. They also showed about 1.5 million Americans have looked for work in the last 12 months, but stopped searching in the four weeks immediately preceding the survey, meaning they don't count as unemployed.

Among those, about 506,000 were "discouraged workers," meaning they don't think there are any jobs available to them. Others "marginally attached" to the workforce are going to school or have family responsibilities, the BLS said.

Friday's report added that average earnings rose 0.2 percent in October and are up 3.1 percent over the past year. That figure might also be skewed by the fact incomes saw a noticeable drop a year ago after Hurricane Harvey landed in east Texas.

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