Washington: The US economy added more jobs than expected last month, and employment gains for the previous two months were revised higher, but the labour market continues to grow too slowly to bring down the jobless rate.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by 103,000 in September as the private sector added 137,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Friday in its survey of employers. Payrolls data for the previous two months were revised up by a total 99,000 to show 57,000 jobs were added in August and 127,000 jobs in July.
However, the September payrolls data was boosted by a one-time event: 45,000 telecom workers returning to their jobs following a strike at Verizon Communications Inc. in August.
Highlighting the stubborn weakness of the labour market, the unemployment rate—which is obtained from a separate household survey—was stuck at 9.1% for the third month in a row.
The results were better than expected. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected payrolls would rise by 60,000 last month, with the unemployment rate at 9.1%.
The jobs market remains weak more than two years after the deep recession of 2008 and 2009 ended. But the latest figures suggest the weakness seen during the summer, which raised fears of a double-dip recession, were more of a soft patch. Still, President Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke both warned this week that the economy is vulnerable to shocks, particularly stemming from Europe’s ongoing debt crisis.
Since April, payroll gains have averaged 72,000 a month, a level that isn’t strong enough to make a dent in the unemployment rate.
Friday’s report showed that employment in professional and business services increased by 48,000 last month. The sector has grown by 897,000 since a recent low in September 2009. The battered construction sector showed a gain, with 26,000 jobs created. Employment in the information industry rose by 34,000, boosted by the Verizon jobs.
But employment in manufacturing, a big creator of jobs for most of the recovery that began in mid-2009, declined by 13,000 last month. Meanwhile, government employment continued to fall—by 34,000. The U.S. Postal Service lost 5,000 jobs over the course of the month.
The public sector has been shedding jobs for almost a year now. The government is expected to continue cutting jobs as administrations address the budget gaps accumulated to fight the recession.
Facing an election in just over a year, Mr. Obama on Thursday cast his $447 billion jobs bill as insurance against a new U.S. recession, urging Congress to approve it quickly. While some elements may pass, including an extension of last year’s payroll-tax cuts, the bill’s prospects as a whole look increasingly troubled because of Republican opposition. Warning lawmakers Tuesday that the economic recovery is “close to faltering,” Mr. Bernanke called on Congress and the White House to work together with the central bank to revive the economy.
The jobs report Friday showed 44.6% of unemployed Americans, or 6.2 million people, were out of work for more than six months in September. The longer someone is without a job, the harder it is to find work.
A broader measure of the unemployment rate, which includes people who stopped looking for work and those taking part-time jobs, rose to 16.5% in September from 16.2% the previous month.
The report also showed that Americans’ incomes, which are crucial to fuel the spending needed to boost the economy, increased only slightly.
Average hourly earnings of all employees rose by $0.04 to $23.12. Over the past year, earnings have increased by only 1.9%.