BUSINESS

September unemployment rate holds at 9.1 percent, economy adds 103K jobs

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(Photo: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States added 103,000 jobs in September, an improvement over this summer and just enough to calm fears of a new recession that have hung over Wall Street and the nation for weeks.

The Labor Department also said Friday that the nation added more jobs than first estimated in July and August. The government's first reading had said the economy added zero jobs in August.

The unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent.

While the report was clearly better than feared, it also showed the economy is not gaining much momentum, said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets.

"It moves you away from the ledge," he said.

The report sent the stock market higher. The Dow Jones industrial average was up about 35 points at midday. In the bond market, yields rose, another sign that investors welcomed the news.

The unemployment report, one of the most closely watched economic indicators, showed that there are two ways of looking at the economy. On one hand, the news was encouraging for economists. Some of them had feared the nation would lose jobs, raising the risk of a devastating second recession.

But everyday Americans can't take much solace from that. Unemployment has been stuck at around 9 percent for more than two years. The economy has to add roughly 125,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth, more to bring down unemployment.

And it's discouraging news for President Barack Obama. The White House has acknowledged that unemployment will likely average 9 percent in 2012. That would be the highest rate any president has faced when seeking reelection since World War II.

Obama, adopting a combative tone as he prepares for next year's re-election campaign, has challenged Congress to get behind his $447 billion jobs bill or risk being run out of Washington.

The Obama plan aims to jolt the economy but cutting taxes and increasing spending on schools, roads and other public projects. He has proposed paying for it in part by raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Obama's Republican rivals are trying to persuade voters that he is to blame for high unemployment and the sluggish economy. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told Fox News Channel on Friday that Obama is criticizing Congress simply because he is "looking for someone to blame."

The report included some signs that business activity is increasing. The temporary help industry added almost 20,000 jobs, and the length of the average workweek increased slightly. Wages also rose a bit.

More hiring and better pay could add up to more consumer spending. That accounts for 70 percent of the economy. When people spend more money, it generates demand for businesses, which hire more workers.

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