The Department of Labor has reported on September 4 that the US economy added 173,000 jobs in August.
This is the last unemployment report before September’s interest rate decision by the Federal Reserve.
The number of jobs was below the 217,000 predicted by analysts, although the Labor Department said that figures for August tend to be revised higher subsequently.
The unemployment rate fell to 5.1% – down from the July figure of 5.3%.
The rate is the lowest since April 2008.
Wall Street headed lower following the numbers, with the S&P 500 falling 1.3% and the Dow Jones industrial average shedding more than 200 points or 1.2%.
European stock markets, which had been trading lower before the data was released, extended their losses, with the FTSE 100 in London down 2% and indexes in Paris and Frankfurt dropping about 2.6%.
There were upward revisions to the number of jobs created in the previous two months, which added another 44,000 jobs. The revised figure for July was 245,000 jobs.
The weaker-than-expected August number could make Fed officials think twice about increasing rates when they meet on September 16-17.
Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said the decline in the unemployment rate could be the clincher for a September rise.
However, he added: “The most likely scenario is one where the Fed waits a little longer in the light of recent economic and financial market instability, instead merely testing financial market reactions with rhetoric that a rate rise is increasingly imminent.”
One of the officials who will help make that decision said on September 4 that the US labor market had recovered sufficiently to warrant raising rates soon.
Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, who had called for a rate increase in June, said the US economy no longer needed rates to be so low.
Fed officials will also take into consideration volatile global financial markets and slowing growth in China.
US economy has added 157,000 jobs in January 2013, which was slightly below forecasts, but the number of new jobs at the end of 2012 was revised up significantly, official data has shown.
In November and December, the Labor Department’s revised figures showed that 127,000 more jobs were created than initially thought.
But the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9% in January, from 7.8% in December.
In 2012, an average of 181,000 jobs a month were created, the data showed.
The news helped lift shares on Wall Street to levels not seen since before the financial crisis. In early trading the Dow Jones index rose above 14,000 for the first time since October 2007.
The unemployment rate is based on a survey of households, while the job creation figure is taken from a survey of employers.
On Wednesday, government data indicated that the US economy unexpectedly shrank at an annualized rate of 0.1% in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Meanwhile, an industry survey on Friday said that the US manufacturing sector grew in January at the fastest pace for nine months.
The latest purchasing managers’ index from financial data firm Markit rose to 55.8 last month, up from 54 in December. A reading above 50 indicates growth.
US economy has added 157,000 jobs in January 2013, which was slightly below forecasts
Markit said that its latest survey “suggests the underlying health of the industrial sector continues to improve, and rising production will help the economy return to growth in the first quarter, provided there are no set-backs in coming months”.
The Labor Department said that in January, jobs were created in retail, construction, healthcare and wholesale trade, but jobs were lost in transportation and warehousing.
Employment in retail rose by 33,000, compared with an average monthly gain of 20,000 in 2012.
Employment in construction rose by 28,000. The Labor Department said that the industry had created 296,000 jobs since falling to a low in January 2011, but added that the current level of employment was still some two million below its previous peak in April 2006.
Healthcare added 23,000 jobs in January, while wholesale trade added 15,000.
There was little change in manufacturing employment, which has been essentially flat since July 2012.
On the downside, couriers and messengers lost 19,000 jobs, after strong seasonal hiring in November and December came to an end.
Darrell Cronk, regional chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank in New York, said: “Like most of our jobs reports, it seems like every month, there is something for everybody in this one – there are positives and negatives.
“It was certainly below expectations and a slight negative that we saw a tick up in the unemployment rate from 7.8% to 7.9%, especially with the labour force participation rate staying where it is, which suggests there aren’t a vast influx of those unemployed/underemployed coming back being job seekers. That was disappointing.”
Official figures from the Labor Department show the US economy added 171,000 new jobs in October, which was much more than had been expected.
However, the official figures showed that the unemployment rate still rose to 7.9%, having fallen to 7.8% in September, as more workers resumed the search for jobs.
Only people who are currently looking for a job count as unemployed.
Unemployment is one of the key issues ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election.
The figures were the last major set of economic data scheduled before the election and the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, has made the state of the jobs market one of the central planks of his campaign.
“Today’s increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill,” Mitt Romney said.
“The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23 million Americans struggling for work.”
The number of jobs created in the previous two months was revised upwards, with an extra 34,000 jobs added in September and 50,000 added in August.
Despite the new jobs, Barack Obama will still go to the polls with the highest rate of unemployment of any president seeking re-election since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
But the rise in the rate of unemployment may be seen as a sign of confidence in the economy, because it was caused by people who had given up looking for work returning to the job market, analysts say.
The total workforce, which is the number of people either working or looking for jobs, rose 578,000 in October.
“While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the US economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression,” said Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in a statement from the White House.
“It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.”
The Labor Department said in its release that Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast of the US on 29 October, had had “no discernible effect” on the employment data.
The number of involuntary part-time workers, who would prefer to be working full-time, fell 269,000 to 8.3 million, having risen by 582,000 in September.
Kathy Jones from Charles Schwab said they were good numbers, but warned that: “We’re way short of where we need to be to bring down the unemployment rate to where the Federal Reserve would like to see, closer to 6% than 8%.”
“We would need to see twice as many jobs as we’re seeing, but the direction has improved.”
The average number of jobs added per month so far in 2012 has been 157,000, which is slightly ahead of the average of 153,000 in 2011.
The category adding the most jobs in October was professional and business services, followed by healthcare and retailing.
There was also a small increase in employment in the construction sector, which has been helped by a pick-up in house building.
The average working week was 34.4 hours for the fourth month in a row, while the average hourly wage was down one cent at $23.58.
Despite there being signs of momentum in the jobs market, there is great concern in the US about what 2013 will bring.
Whoever wins the presidential election will have to reach a budget agreement with legislators by the end of the year, to prevent $600 billion of tax increases and spending cuts kicking in automatically in 2013.
The measures, known as the fiscal cliff, could take the US back into recession.
There is also some uncertainty about the coming months as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
Many businesses will have their work interrupted by effects of the storms. On the other hand, reconstruction on the East Coast is likely to increase employment in the construction sector.
In New York, the Dow Jones was up 1% in early trading.
The US unemployment rate fell in September to its lowest rate since January 2009, figures from the Department of Labor have shown, surprising analysts who had been expecting a small rise.
September’s rate came in at 7.8%, down from 8.1% in August.
The latest data also showed that the US economy added a further 114,000 jobs in September, slightly more than markets had expected.
The US jobs market is a key issue in the presidential election race.
When the unemployment rate was last this low, President Barack Obama was about to take office.
However, economist Sean Incremona of New York-based company 4Cast said the latest data showed that the US economy remained subdued.
“Generally, we are still seeing a mixed underlying picture that is neither too impressive nor terrible,” he said.
Fellow economist, Omer Esiner, of Rhode Island-based Commonwealth Foreign Exchange, was more upbeat.
“The headline of the day is clearly the drop in the unemployment rate, which was a big surprise,” he said.
“There is something in these numbers for everyone. The rise in the participation rate shows somewhat of a real improvement in the labour market.”
The latest official data showed that the construction sector added 5,000 jobs last month, while the number of people working in government jobs rose by 10,000.
However, the biggest gain was record in the healthcare sector, which added 44,000 jobs in September.
The Labor Department also used the release of the September data to revise up how many new jobs were created in both July and August. It said that 86,000 more jobs than first calculated were added across the two months.
Separate official figures released at the end of last month revised down by how much the US economy had grown between April and June.
Gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter grew at an annualized rate of 1.3%, down from the previous estimate of 1.7%.