U.S. Unemployment At 50-year Low

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to near a 50-year low in September, according to the Labor Department’s monthly employment report. The two-tenths of a percentage point drop in the unemployment rate from 3.7 percent in August to 3.5 percent in September pushed it to its lowest level since December 1969. The jobless rate had been stuck at 3.7 percent for three straight months.

The report showed that 117,000 people entered the labor force last month. Economists had forecast payrolls would increase by 145,000 jobs in September. The amount was above the 100,000 per month needed to keep up with growth in the working-age population but below the monthly average of 161,000 this year.

When looking at a broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, the rate declined by three-tenths of a percentage point. The rate was 6.9 percent in September, down from 7.2 percent in August. September’s rate was the lowest since December 2000.

After rising 0.4 percent in August, average hourly earnings were unchanged last month. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.4 hours.

Hiring is slowing across all sectors, with the exception of government. Manufacturing jobs fell by 2,000 last month after a gain of 2,000 jobs in August. Retail employment fell by 11,400 jobs in its eighth straight monthly drop. Government payrolls rose by 22,000 jobs in September after an increase of 46,000 in August.

Estimates of economic growth for the third quarter range from a low of 1.3 percent annualized rate to a high of 1.9 percent. The economy grew 2 percent in the second quarter. Both are lower than the 3.1 percent rate recorded in the January-March period.