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US employers hired more new workers in October than expected, after a slowdown in the summer.

Firms added 531,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.6%, official figures showed.

Hiring figures for September were also revised upwards.

The spread of the Delta variant and slower growth had suppressed hiring over the summer, along with an apparent reluctance from parts of the workforce to return to work.

That has left many employers scrambling for staff and struggling to meet growing demand. Many are raising wages to attract and retain staff and the Labor Department said year-on-year average wages had risen 4.9%.

Revised data for September showed that many more jobs were created that month, 312,000, than the 197,000 initially reported.

Figures for August were also revised upwards from 366,000 to 483,000.

Taken together the data shows a strong upward trend, although jobs growth is still below the rates seen in the first half of the year.

Healing market

Analysts welcomed the report as a strong indication of post-pandemic recovery.

"It shows that we're seeing the jobs market healing to the point where we could expect even larger gains next month as more people return to the labour force," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

However the participation rate, which shows what proportion of potential workers are in jobs or looking for one, remained flat, suggesting not everyone is ready for a return to normal.

"The participation rate idled at 61.6% which is consistent with people being hesitant about returning to the workforce," Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington said.

"The market wants to see people come off the sidelines and return to the labour force."

Fear of Covid infection, childcare challenges, relocations and other lifestyle changes have kept some people out of the labour market.

With government support coming to an end, children back in school and savings made during the pandemic running down economists expect more people to return to work.