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U.S. unemployment falls

The labor market has been mired in its longest slump since World War II.
The labor market has been mired in its longest slump since World War II.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- U.S. payrolls grew in October for the second straight month, the government said Friday, trouncing Wall Street expectations, as the labor market accelerated its recovery from its longest slump since World War II.

Unemployment fell to 6 percent from 6.1 percent in September, the Labor Department reported, while payrolls outside the farm sector rose by 126,000 jobs after rising a revised 125,000 in September.

"This is good news," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. "Strong economic growth means more jobs. And there is a direct correlation between the president's tax cuts and the stronger economy."

Economists, on average, expected an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent and payrolls growth of 58,000 jobs, according to a Reuters poll.

It was the biggest month for job growth since January, when payrolls grew by 158,000 jobs.

Most economists believe payrolls need to grow by at least 150,000 jobs a month in order to keep up with the natural growth of the labor force and keep the unemployment rate down, and that is generally expected to happen only slowly in the next year.

The labor market has for several months been mired in its longest slump since World War II, with payrolls 2.4 million jobs lighter than they were in March 2001, when the latest recession began.

About 8.8 million people were unemployed in October, the department said, and 2 million of them have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said, "it's encouraging that after three hard years, the economy is slowly starting to right itself."

But the figures "are little comfort to the 3.2 million Americans who have lost their jobs under this president's stewardship. Nor will it cheer the 2 million unemployed persons who have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer, or the 462,000 discouraged workers who have given up looking for a job because there are none available."

Noting last week's report that the economy grew at 7.2 percent, the best quarterly growth rate since 1984, Hastert said the developments point to solid recovery thanks to Bush legislation cutting taxes, providing small business incentives, and generating investor confidence.

"This week, we learned that the economy created more than 286,000 jobs in the last three months. This is the best performance in payroll jobs growth in three years. That is good news for all Americans who are worried about their personal job security."

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