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Economy adds 136K jobs in September as unemployment hits 50-year low

By Sylvan Lane , The Hill

The U.S. added 136,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department reported Friday, slightly missing economists' expectations but dragging the unemployment rate to its lowest level since December 1969.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent from 3.7 percent while the labor force participation rate held even at 62.3 percent. The August total job gain was revised up to 168,000 from an initially reported 130,000, while July’s gain was revised up to 166,000 from a previous estimate of 159,000 new hires.

President Trump was quick to praise the drop in unemployment, mocking Democrats for pursuing an impeachment inquiry despite the strength of the labor market.

"Wow America, lets impeach your President (even though he did nothing wrong!)," Trump tweeted roughly 15 minutes after the jobs report was released at 8:30 a.m. Executive branch officials are generally prohibited from commenting on the jobs report until an hour after its release, though Trump has flouted this rule before.

Despite the drop in unemployment, the September jobs report fell short of projections that the U.S. would add roughly 145,000 new workers last month. The hiring shortfall was one of several signs of slowing U.S. job and economic growth after a month of dismal signals about the economy.

The average monthly jobs gain has sunk sharply from 223,000 in 2018 to 161,000 in 2019, though it remains above the roughly 100,000 new workers needed to keep the unemployment rate from rising.

Wage growth also slumped to an annualized gain of 2.9 percent despite unemployment near-record lows, which should theoretically drive wages higher.

"There’s a chance the recent low of 2.9% is a blip, but it’s certainly a troubling sign and something to watch in coming months especially after the deceleration experienced in the first half of 2019," wrote Elise Gould, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, in a Friday analysis.

"The report suggests the Federal Reserve is doing the right thing by gradually lowering interest rates to ensure the longest recovery in modern economic history can be sustained—rather than peter out just as many lower- and middle-income households are starting to feel its benefits."

The September jobs report was highly anticipated after industrial output, consumer confidence, and several long-term projections of economic growth fell in September. But the report did little to change the picture of a slowing, yet resilient U.S. economy.

"The economy is still humming along. The expansion remains on track," tweeted Justin Wolfers, an economics professor at the University of Michigan and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The health care and professional and business services industries continued to lead U.S. job growth, adding 73,000 jobs combined in September, while job growth in the mining, construction, manufacturing, and wholesale trade industries remained stagnant.

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