WASHINGTON (AP) - Today's jobs report comes as a surprise to economists who were expecting to see the nation's jobless rate tick up. But one economist says it's consistent with recent data suggesting the economy is gaining momentum.

The government reports the nation's jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent last month. It has slipped below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years with the election a month away.

The rate dropped from 8.1 percent because the number of people who said they were employed jumped by 873,000 - an encouraging sign for an economy that's struggled to create jobs.

The number of unemployed Americans is now 12.1 million, the lowest since January 2009. The Labor Department says employers added 114,000 jobs in September. It also said 86,000 more jobs were added in July and August than the department had initially estimated.

Still, many of the jobs the economy added last month were part time. The number of people with part-time jobs who wanted full-time work rose 7.5 percent to 8.6 million, the most since February 2009.

Revisions show employers added 146,000 jobs a month from July through September, up from 67,000 in the previous three months.

The 7.8 percent unemployment rate for September matches the rate in January 2009, when Obama took office.

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