U.S. economy: 103,000 jobs added but unemployment still at 9.1%

The Obama administration dodged a bullet today when the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics announced in its jobs report for September that non-farm payroll employment edged up by 103,000 although the unemployment rate held at 9.1 per cent.

However the BLS poured cold water on the ostensible pause in the economy’s downward slide when it pointed out that the increase in employment partially reflected the return to payrolls of about 45,000 telecommunications workers who had been on strike in August.

Even as markets continued to be roiled in the wake of uncertainty regarding the pace of the recovery, the BLS however underscored some stability in unemployment numbers, noting that the number of unemployed persons, at 14.0 million, was essentially unchanged in September.

However some worrisome trends persisted beneath the aggregate figures as the number of long-term unemployed, that is those jobless for 27 weeks or more, was 6.2 million in September and they accounted for whopping 44.6 percent of the unemployed.

In a further indication that business hiring and employment were far from brisk the number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers, reportedly rose to 9.3 million. “These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job,” the BLS said.

Describing the unemployment rate of 9.1 per cent as “unacceptably high,” Katherine Abraham, Member of the Council of Economic Advisors, however lauded the private sector for adding 2.6 million jobs for 19 straight months, with a total of 137,000 jobs added last month.

Arguing that there was a clear need for faster economic growth to put Americans back to work, Ms. Abraham said that the BLS report underscored President Barack Obama’s call for Congress to pass the American Jobs Act “to put more money in the pockets of working and middle class families; to make it easier for small businesses to hire workers; to keep teachers in the classroom; to put construction crews to work rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure; and other measures that will help the economy grow while not adding to the deficit over ten years.”

In terms of specific sectors that added jobs last month, employment in professional and business services increased by 48,000; in health care it continued to expand with an increase of 44,000; in construction employment increased by 26,000 jobs; and employment in the information sector rose by 34,000. Among the sectors that shed jobs was retail trade, in which employment declined in electronic and appliance stores by 9,000 jobs.

However it was principally in the public sector that the largest declines in employment levels occurred, with government employment continuing to trend down by 34,000 jobs. The U.S. Postal Service also continued to lose jobs and was down by 5,000, while local government employment which had fallen by 535,000 since September 2008, declined by 35,000.

The BLS said that the average hourly earnings for all employees on private non-farm payrolls increased by 4 cents, or 0.2 per cent, to $23.12.

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