Job growth surged in October, rebounding from a late-summer slowdown that raised concerns about whether global slowness was infecting the U.S.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that nonfarm payrolls grew 271,000 for the month, a sharp jump from weak August and September numbers. The headline unemployment rate declined to 5.0 percent, declining even as the civilian labor force increased by 313,000.
A broader measure of unemployment that includes those who have stopped looking as well as those working part time for economic reasons declined to 9.8 percent, the first time it's been below 10 percent since May 2008.
Perhaps more important than the headline number was the growth in average hourly earnings, which jumped 9 cents, representing a monthly gain of 0.6 percent and an annualized increase of 2.5 percent. The average work week remained at 34.5 hours.
Market traders immediately began bracing for the possibility of a December rate hike.
"We can check off a number of good-news boxes with this report. It's hard to find any bad-news boxes to check off," said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. "This is a report that should prompt more Americans to truly give thanks later this month. Maybe they can even add in an extra side-dish with their Thanksgiving meal."
The labor force participation rate held at a generational low of 62.4 percent, though the decline in the total labor force slowed a bit. There were 97,000 fewer Americans counted as not in the labor force, a number that nonetheless remains near record highs at 94.5 million.
The Federal Reserve watches the monthly number closely for clues about the strength of job creation and inflationary pressures, particularly from wage growth. The U.S. central bank has been saber-rattling for months regarding interest rate hikes but has yet to pull the trigger amid uneven economic data.
Shortly after the report was issued, Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans told CNBC the much stronger-than-expected report is "very good news" and supports his 2016 economic outlook of 2.5 percent growth.