The delayed September jobs report disappointed, showing that the economy had slowed to crawl even before the government shutdown.
U.S. employers added only 148,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department says. Some economists were expecting at least 180,000. They were optimistic about the report because it doesn't yet reflect any of the damage caused by the government shutdown.
"It doesn't really give us much of any sort of cushion going into next month's jobs report because that's when we are going to see all the noise from the government shutdown," says David Nice, associate economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago.
Well, at least the unemployment rate truly went down
The unemployment rate dipped to 7.2 percent. Unlike in some previous months, the slight drop was not because the labor force shrunk as Americans quit looking for work.
"Unemployment rate decline was genuine," says Paul Edelstein, director of financial economics at IHS Global Insight. "Labor force and employment both increased."
Most of the job growth was in construction, wholesale trade, and transportation and warehousing.
There's a lot of catching up to do
But the decline in the unemployment rate was so small, it's not worth celebrating, as 11.3 million people remain unemployed.
"It was a small decline," Edelstein says. "Unemployment rate rounded down to 7.2 percent instead of up to 7.3 percent."
Nice says the U.S. economy should create at least 200,000 jobs per month to keep the recovering going. In the prior 12 months, employment growth averaged 185,000 per month, according to the Labor Department.
"It's weak right now, with the numbers coming in this low, and we are not even on an upward trend anymore," he says. "We've kind of hit some sort of stall pace here. It just adds to the uncertainty."
Some good news
The report brings a bit of certainty to those who want the Fed to continue to throw money at the economy. It's unlikely the Fed will cut its $85-billion-per-month bond-purchasing program this year. The quantitative easing program, known as QE3, has helped keep rates low to stimulate the economy.
"We've been saying they probably won't taper until January," Nice says. "I think that that's more of a certainty now."
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