WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added a robust 261,000 jobs in October in a bounce-back from the hurricanes that slammed the Southeast in September.
The unemployment rate declined to 4.1 percent, the lowest in nearly 17 years, from 4.2 percent in September, the Labor Department said Friday.
October's burst of hiring mostly reflects a rebound from the hurricanes that temporarily depressed job gains in September. But it also shows that for all their fury, the storms did not knock the economy off course. Over the past three months, hiring has averaged 162,000. That is similar to the pace of hiring before the hurricanes.
Employers added just 18,000 jobs in September, as thousands of businesses were forced to close. That figure was revised higher from a previous estimate that had showed a loss of 33,000.
Even with the economy in its ninth year of recovery from the Great Recession, hiring remains solid and growth is healthy. For the first time since the downturn, the global economy is broadly improving, with all major advanced economies expanding at the same time.
The value of the dollar has slid since earlier this year, a move that makes U.S. goods less expensive overseas. Those trends are lifting U.S. exports and boosting the profits of American multinational corporations.
In September, the hurricanes and widespread flooding in Florida shut down thousands of businesses. But most businesses have since reopened.
Americans are also sounding more optimistic about the economic outlook, which could prompt more people to open their wallets in the coming months. Consumer confidence reached its highest level in nearly 17 years in October, according to the Conference Board.
Auto sales have also jumped since the hurricanes as people replace damaged and destroyed cars. Replacement auto sales helped lift overall consumer spending by the most in eight years in September. Still, that is likely to be a temporary economic boost.
The economy expanded at a 3 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, after a 3.1 percent gain in the second quarter. That was the best six-month showing in three years.