Unemployment his a 50-year low in September even though nonfarm payrolls rose by just 136,000 as the economy nears full employment, the Labor Department said Friday.
The jobless rate dropped 0.2 percentage points to 3.5 percent, matching a level it last saw in December 1969, the report said. A more encompassing measure that includes discouraged workers and the underemployed also fell, declining 0.3 percent points to 6.9 percent, meeting its lowest in nearly 19 years and just off the all-time low of 6.8 percent.
According to the report, the jobless rate for Hispanics also hit a new record low, while the level for African Americans maintained its lowest level ever.
Regardless, the economy saw another sluggish month of growth. The nonfarm payrolls count missed the 145,000 estimate from economists surveyed by Dow Jones; the expectation on the jobless rate was to hold steady at 3.7 percent.
Wages were also lackluster, as average hourly earnings little changed over the month and up just 2.9 percent for the year, the lowest increase since July 2018.
The report comes amid uncertainty about the economy, and fears that weakness overseas may impact the US and potentially trigger a recession.
Reports earlier in the week showed continued contraction in manufacturing and a sharp decline in the much larger services industry.
Still there has been some good news as the previous two months saw upward revisions. August rose sharply, from an initial estimate of 130,000 to 168,000 while July increased from 159,000 to 166,000 for a net gain of 45,000.
Nonetheless, 2019 has seen a marked slowdown. The average to date for the year is just 161,000, compared with 223,000 for the year-ago period.
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