Governments continued to slash payrolls in November as the private sector added jobs, with the November unemployment rate falling to 8.6 percent – the lowest rate in two and a half years.

Data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed private sector employment rose 140,000 for the month. Significant monthly gains were reported in retail trade, leisure and education and health services.

The public sector, though, cut another 20,000 jobs in November. Local governments lost 11,000 jobs and have now cut an estimated 180,000 over the past year. State government employment also continued its downward trend, with 5,000 fewer jobs after losing 16,000 from September to October.

Federal government employment, excluding U.S. Postal Service workers, remained relatively unchanged. An estimated 1,500 jobs were added, while postal service employment declined by about 5,000.

Overall, the nation’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 9.0 to 8.6, the lowest since March 2009.

Although some job seekers found employment, about 315,000 others withdrew from the labor force last month. The unemployment rate only considers individuals actively seeking jobs.

In response to the new figures, National League of Cities President Ted Ellis called on Congress to pass a jobs plan to aid local economies.

“While showing improvement, the number of jobs created is far from adequate,” Ellis said in a news release. “The continued high unemployment rate confirms that far too many families are still struggling to make ends meet and that recovery is taking too long.”

The Labor Department also revised previous employment estimates, showing slightly higher increases in nonfarm payrolls. The increase for September employment was revised from 158,000 to 210,000. For October, the nation added about 100,000 jobs, up from the initial estimate of 80,000.

The Labor Department is scheduled to release employment estimates for states and local areas on Dec. 20.