WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers borrowed more heavily for auto and student loans in October, taking out debt that helps them find jobs and commute to work.

The Federal Reserve said Monday that consumer borrowing rose $16 billion in October to $3.5 trillion. But the pace of borrowing decelerated sharply from the $28.5 billion increase in September.

Nearly all of the October gain came from the category that covers auto and student loans, while credit card borrowing edged up a mere $200 million. The increase suggests that more Americans are borrowing to improve their educational skills and upgrade their cars and trucks, instead of relying on debt to fund their daily shopping and emergency expenses.

Many economists expect that consumer spending will be relatively healthy in the coming months because of strong job gains.