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U.S. jobless rate falls to six-year low in September

[WASHINGTON] U.S. employers stepped up hiring in September and the jobless rate fell to a six-year low, which could bolster bets on a Federal Reserve rate hike in mid-2015 or even earlier.

Friday's report on hiring is the most significant gauge of the economy's health ahead of Nov. 4 congressional elections.

While President Barack Obama's message of an improving economy has been hampered by persistent drops in family incomes under his watch, the hiring data underscored the strides made in the labour market this year.

U.S. non-farm payrolls rose by 248,000 last month and the jobless rate fell to 5.9 per cent, the lowest since July 2008, the Labour Department said. The results showed a stronger labour market than analysts had anticipated.

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The government also said 69,000 more jobs had been added to payrolls in July and August than previously estimated. "What we see is a measured confidence. The business sector is now much more likely to hire even before there is a fall in their inventories," Patrick O'Keefe, an economist at CohnReznick and a former U.S. Labour Department official, said ahead of the report.

Most economists see the economy expanding at around a 3 per cent annual rate in the third quarter, well above the average over the last two years of 2.2 per cent. - Reuters