Employers aggressively hired new workers in October, adding 337,000 people to payrolls after a sluggish summer, although the overall unemployment rate rose marginally, to 5.5 percent.
The 0.1 percent rise in the seasonally adjusted civilian rate happened largely because the new hiring was to some degree offset by increasing numbers of people who came into the labor market in search of work.
Nevertheless, the expansion in payrolls last month was nearly double what economists had forecast, the Labor Department reported Friday, saying that cleanup efforts from hurricanes that struck Florida and much of the Southeast helped jump-start the labor market.
Economists had expected October payrolls to grow by about 175,000 with the jobless rate holding steady at 5.4 percent. Employers have added about 2.2 million jobs since August 2003.