U.S. adds 156K jobs; more seeking work
Unemployment rate increases slightly to 5%
WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added a decent 156,000 jobs in September, even while an influx of job seekers lifted the unemployment rate slightly to 5 percent. The rise in people seeking work is an encouraging sign that Americans are more optimistic about their prospects.
The job gain last month, though modest, suggested that the U.S. economy remains steady if not particularly strong. Wages also rose and are now increasing at a healthier pace than they were earlier in the economic recovery — a trend that may be drawing more people into the job market to look for work.
For much of the recovery, the proportion of Ameri- Stocks edged up early after Friday’s jobs report, but the market quickly dropped later. cans who either had a job or were looking for one had been declining as an aging population led to many retirements. Many of the unemployed also grew discouraged about their pro- spects. Others stayed in school or remained at home caring for relatives.
Yet in the past year, the proportion of adults either working or looking for work has risen from a 40-year low of 62.4 percent to 62.9 percent. That is still far below pre-recession levels. But the proportion has increased even while many people in the vast baby boom generation have been retiring.
So far this year, job growth has averaged 178,000 a month, down from last year’s pace of 229,000. Still, hiring even at this year’s level is enough to lower the unemployment rate over time. And economists have been expecting the pace of job growth to slow as the supply of unemployed workers declines.
The September hiring figures will probably keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise the short-term interest rate it controls by December, economists said. After seven years of pinning that rate at a record low near zero to try to spur more borrowing and spending, the Fed raised its rate modestly in December. It has not acted since.
“The September payroll report was a decent report that shows moderate job growth continues,” Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West, wrote in a note. “In many ways, it was a ‘Goldilocks’ number — not too hot or not too cold — for the market and the Fed.”
The stock market edged up in early trading after the jobs report. But it quickly turned lower and remained down for the rest of the day. Suppliers of basic materials and industrial companies lost the most. Friday marked the market’s first weekly decline in a month.
Friday’s report comes a month before voters will decide a presidential election in which the two major nominees have sketched out conflicting views of the economy’s health.
In September, average hourly pay rose 6 cents to $25.79 and is now up 2.6 percent from a year ago. That’s better than the gains for most of the seven-year economic recovery, during which pay has increased at a tepid pace of about 2 percent a year. The pay increases, modest as they are, suggest that many employers are being forced to pay more to attract workers.