The US economy added 261,000 jobs last month, according to data released Friday by the Department of Labor, and unemployment dipped to a half-century low.

The September jobs report was revised down from a gain of 212,000 to 177,000. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.1 per cent for a second month.

The downward revision was due largely to a bigger-than-expected drop in employment at federal agencies. But payroll provider ADP, citing its own survey of businesses, said Thursday that businesses added 250,000 jobs in October.

The government said long-term unemployment dropped significantly in October and remains below pre-recession levels.

And average hourly pay rose by 9 cents in October to $27.43, its largest gain in nine months.

Investors were disappointed with the data, knocking the Dow Jones industrial average more than 500 points lower, to as low as 26,540 in the afternoon.

The Labor Department’s report Friday showed a healthy mix of hourly pay gains and job growth.

Private-sector hiring was mixed, but the gains were broad-based: Construction employers added 38,000 jobs, and leisure and hospitality companies added 170,000.

Manufacturers cut 10,000 jobs, but they have now added 100,000 for two months in a row, the department said.

Almost 9.6 million people were unemployed last month, down 42,000 from the previous month. That is a level about 3.7 per cent lower than in September 2008, when the country was mired in recession.

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