The economy added 114,000 jobs in September, bringing the unemployment rate down to 7.8 percent, the lowest it's been since January 2009.
August's gains were revised up from 96,000 to 142,000 jobs, helping to bring the official unemployment number down from 8.1 percent.
The number of people participating in the labor force also rose slightly in September, meaning the dip in unemployment wasn't driven by frustrated workers exiting the labor force altogether because they couldn't find a job. Still, 12.1 million Americans are unemployed, and nearly 5 million have been looking for work for more than 27 weeks.
The report is good news for President Obama in the final month of the campaign, and may distract from criticism of his sluggish debate performance on Wednesday.
Mitt Romney said in a statement Friday that the report does not show a "real recovery."
"If not for all the people who have simply dropped out of the labor force, the real unemployment rate would be closer to 11 percent," he said.
So far, the White House hasn't crowed over the lower number. Alan Krueger, the chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, wrote on the White House website that monthly reports can be "volatile," and that people shouldn't read too much into this one. "While there is more work that remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression," Krueger wrote.