BUSINESS

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

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The private sector added 137,000 jobs, up from August but below July's revised total. The economy lost 34,000 government jobs. Local governments in particular cut teachers and other school employees.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Among the industries that added jobs in September were construction, retail, temporary help services and health care. Manufacturing cut jobs for a second straight month.

The economy returned in September to something closer to the job growth of earlier this year. In February, March and April, the nation added an average of more than 200,000 jobs a month.

But then manufacturing slowed, consumer confidence crashed, and Washington was caught in gridlock — first over whether to raise the nation's borrowing limit and then on how best to get the economy going.

Meanwhile, hiring slowed dramatically. The economy added only 53,000 jobs in May and 20,000 in June. The figures out Friday showed hiring improved in July, slowed slightly in August, and improved again in September.

Still, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Congress earlier this week that the economic recovery was "close to faltering," with slow job growth dragging down consumer confidence.

Bernanke, speaking in unusually blunt terms, said he could not blame Americans for being frustrated at the financial industry "for getting us into this mess" and at Washington for not coming up with a strong response.

August's figures were revised up to show a gain of 57,000 jobs, up from a previous estimate of zero. July was revised up to 127,000 jobs, from 85,000.

September's job gains are weaker than they appear. Nearly half came from the rehiring of 45,000 Verizon employees who had been on strike.

And more Americans are working part time even though they would prefer full-time work. That total has increased nearly 900,000 in just the past two months, which suggests that many recently created jobs have only been part time.

When part time workers are added to those without jobs who are discouraged and have given up looking, the so-called "underemployment" rate rose to 16.5 percent from 16.2 percent. That's the highest level since December.

The faltering economy has led many employers to reduce hiring. In the first half of this year, the economy grew at the slowest pace since the recession ended in June 2009. Since then, Europe's debt crisis and stock market declines have heightened fears that the economy will struggle to grow enough to avoid a recession.

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