The U.S. jobs report for August released Friday showed hiring has fallen off after a six-month streak of healthy growth, surprising many economists who had predicted much higher numbers.

Hiring in August dipped to 142,000 jobs, below economists' estimates of a rosy above-200,000 and below an average pace of 212,000 jobs added monthly over the past 12 months. 

The unemployment rate ticked down to 6.1 percent, compared to 6.2 percent in July and 6.1 percent in June.

Over the past seven months, the economy has added 1.7 million jobs, the most since 2006. Hiring for July was revised up to 212,000 from 209,000 and hiring for June was revised down to 267,000 from 298,000. Still, economists would like to see job growth accelerate.

The unemployment rate doesn't count the number of Americans who have given up searching for work. That information is, however, included in the labor force participation rate, which gauges the number of Americans who are working or looking for work.

In July, the labor force participation rate rose slightly — to 62.9 percent from 62.8 percent, where it had been for three months — but that's still an historically low level.

The unemployment rate has fallen by 1.1 percentage points over the past 12 months. If job growth remains as strong as it was this summer, it will dip to 5.5 percent by January and settle around 5.2 percent in the spring.