U.S. employers hired the fewest workers in five months in October, offering the clearest evidence yet that the end of fiscal stimulus and exploding new COVID-19 infections were sapping momentum from the economic recovery.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 638,000 jobs last month after rising by 672,000 in September, the Labor Department said in its closely watched employment report on Friday. That was the smallest gain since the jobs recovery started in May and left employment still well below its peak in February.

The unemployment rate fell to 6.9% from 7.9% in September. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls advancing by 600,000 jobs in October and the jobless rate dipping to 7.7%.

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