Politics & Money

U.S. unemployment rate falls to 50-year low of 3.5%

Economy adds 136,000 jobs in September, slowing from August's pace

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to a 50-year low of 3.5% in September as the economy added 136,000 jobs, slowing from August’s upwardly revised 168,000 gain, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The number of unemployed persons fell to 5.8 million in September, down from 6 million in the prior month, according to the report.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, said that September’s employment growth is a silver lining for an economy that has shown signs of struggling. On Tuesday, a gauge of U.S. manufacturing activity showed the lowest reading in a decade.

“Job gains of 136,000 and the unemployment rate falling to 3.5% are comforting signs that economic momentum remains solid even in an environment of greater uncertainty,” Yun said. “But before getting too excited, we should be aware that jobs are not cut at the first sign of uncertainty. That is why employment conditions are often a lagging indicator in assessing the direction of the economy.”

Comparing demographic segments, the jobless rates showed little or no change during September, coming in for men at 3.2%, Hispanics at 3.9%, women at 3.1%, teenagers at 12.5%, Asians at 2.5% and blacks at 5.5%. The unemployment rate for the nation’s white population declined to 3.2%.

The average hourly earnings for all employees on private non-farm payrolls fell one cent to $28.09 in September. That was 2.9% higher than a year earlier.

The change in total non-farm payroll employment in July was revised upward to 166,000 jobs from 159,000. With the revisions to the prior two months, employment gains in June and July combined were 45,000 more than previously reported.

The majority of job gains in September can be attributed to an increase in jobs in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, healthcare and government. However, employment declined or showed little change in other major industries, including construction, leisure and hospitality, financial activities, information, wholesale trade and manufacturing.

The average workweek for all employees on private non-farm payrolls remained unchanged at 34.4 hours in September.

Here are some of the areas that showed notable changes in August:

  • Employment in professional and business services increased 34,000 jobs
  • Employment in transportation and warehousing increased 16,000 jobs
  • Employment in healthcare increased 39,000 jobs
  • Employment in government increased 22,000 jobs

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