US adds nearly 250,000 jobs in September as jobless rate dips to 5.9%

Strong September leads to 5.9% unemployment rate but long-term jobs remain persistent issue for economy eking out growth

After dismal summer employment numbers, the US added a robust 248,000 jobs to the economy in September, but the unemployment crisis continues as two other key measures are still unnervingly high: long-term unemployment and number of people in jobs they don’t want.

The report appears to show significant improvement in the jobs outlook in September. There are 9.3 million unemployed people in the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its monthly report. That is a striking decrease of 1.9 million people compared to January.

The number of long-term unemployed – people without jobs for 27 weeks or more – was three million people, down 1.2 million over the past year.

The unemployment rate in September also fell to 5.9% – below 6% for the first time since July 2008.

Even within the optimistic numbers, there are reasons to be cautious. The trends show Americans do not have the kinds of jobs they want.

For instance, there were 7.1 million people who were working part-time because their hours had been cut back, or because they were unable to find a full-time job. As pundits have noted, that number of frustrated workers is roughly equivalent to the population of the entire state of Washington.

Over the past year, there has also been no change in the number of people who have dropped out of the labor force even though they were looking and available for work. There are still 2.2 million Americans fitting that description.

In addition, part of the reason for its fall in the unemployment rate is that more people are getting discouraged in their job searches and dropping out of the labor force.

The labor force participation rate, which measures how many Americans are working, stayed relatively stagnant at 62.7%, the lowest since 1978.

Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen has set up alarms that the jobs numbers don’t represent the full human scale of the nation’s crisis. In March, she talked of “the real people behind the statistics, struggling to get by and eager for the opportunity to build better lives.”

Although the number of jobs added far exceeded economists’ expectations, “a couple of factors suggest a degree of caution is appropriate,” wrote Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

The reason: Revisions are a key part of the jobs numbers. July and August, which were mostly dismal, turned out to have 69,000 more jobs than the BLS knew at first. On average, the September unemployment estimates are rocky and often revised sharply after the economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics crunch the numbers a second time. There is a median difference of about 44,000 jobs between the first estimate and the second estimate in September, Shepherdson wrote.


Heidi Moore

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
US adds 103,000 new jobs as unemployment rate unchanged

Better-than-expected figures provide some relief for Barack Obama and boost markets, although unemployment still at 9.1%

Dominic Rushe in New York and Ewen MacAskill in Washington

07, Oct, 2011 @2:50 PM

Article image
US adds 372,000 jobs in June as growth exceeds expectations
US unemployment rate held steady at 3.6%, labor department said, as jobs report indicated resilience

Edward Helmore

08, Jul, 2022 @2:36 PM

Article image
US adds 166,000 jobs in September amid 'softening' economic recovery

Delicate recovery threatened by looming federal budget showdown as payroll firm releases jobs numbers amid shutdown

Dominic Rushe in New York

02, Oct, 2013 @12:54 PM

America's jobless chill | Tim Fernholz

Tim Fernholz: With US unemployment leaping above 10%, politicians and policy-makers need to urgently rethink plans for recovery

Tim Fernholz

06, Nov, 2009 @7:30 PM

Article image
US economy adds 257,000 jobs in biggest increase since November 2008
Marks 11th straight month to top 200,000 jobs and revised November figures show 423,000 jobs created, most since May 2010

Rupert Neate in New York

06, Feb, 2015 @2:01 PM

US jobless numbers increase sharply

Financial markets read the data as signalling that the US economy - the world's largest - is almost certainly in recession

Ashley Seager, economics correspondent

04, Apr, 2008 @1:06 PM

Article image
US adds 192,000 jobs in March as unemployment rate remains at 6.7%
Lacklustre numbers shows US economy in the doldrums as number of jobs added falls below economists' predictions

Heidi Moore in New York

04, Apr, 2014 @1:50 PM

Article image
US adds 217,000 new jobs in May but unemployment rate stays flat
Commerce Department reports most robust pace of change since 1999 but problems remain for teenagers and African Americans

Dominic Rushe in New York

06, Jun, 2014 @1:06 PM

Article image
September jobs report a huge boost for Obama as unemployment rate tumbles

US economy added 114,000 jobs last month as unemployment falls to 7.8%, the lowest level since Obama took office

Dominic Rushe in New York and Ewen MacAskill in Fairfax

05, Oct, 2012 @2:21 PM

Article image
Don't believe the hype on US jobless numbers | Dean Baker

Dean Baker: We were softened up with 'double-dip' recession stories so that the latest jobs report would seem less dire than it really is

Dean Baker

10, Oct, 2011 @8:30 PM