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WASHINGTON – U.S. employers added 638,000 jobs in October, a solid pace though far fewer than needed to regain most of the jobs lost to the pandemic recession just as new viral cases are setting record highs.

The gain suggested that a tentative economic recovery is still intact even as it faces a surging viral outbreak. October’s gain was slightly below the 672,000 jobs added in September and the 1.5 million in August.

But last month’s gain was stronger than it appears: It was held down by the loss of about 150,000 temporary Census jobs. Excluding governments, private employers added a healthy 906,000 jobs. Job growth was particularly strong in construction, retail, and a category that includes restaurants and hotels.

The report Friday from the Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell to 6.9% from 7.9% in September. Still, the nation now has 10.1 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic intensified in March.

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