US unemployment rate falls to 5.9 percent -- a six-year low -- as 248,000 jobs created
Now hiring sign (AFP Photo/Spencer Platt)

The US jobs machine powered back in September to pump out 248,000 net new positions, erasing concerns about an August slump.


That, together with a revision to the two previous months adding 69,000 jobs to the picture, was enough to send the jobless rate down to a six-year low of 5.9 percent, after hovering around 6.1 percent for three months, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The solid run of employment generation so far this year -- an average of 227,000 jobs each month -- brought the number of officially unemployed down to 9.3 million, the lowest level since July 2008.

Job creation in September was strongest in the restaurant industry, health care, food and beverage stores, and administrative services, with also modest additions in construction and government hiring.

But weaknesses in the jobs market persisted, with the number of those who have dropped out of the labor market -- a volatile figure month-to-month -- rising by 315,000, almost as much as the fall in the number of unemployed.

The civilian labor force participation rate fell a tick to a new low of 62.7 percent, far below the 66 percent level prior to the severe 2008-2009 recession.

The number of involuntary part-time workers was little-changed in September at 7.1 million, and wages were down slightly for the month and up a weak 2.2 percent year-on-year.

That continues to challenge the arguments of President Barack Obama's administration ahead of the November mid-term congressional elections that its stewardship over the economy has served Americans best.

The unemployment rate has fallen steadily from the peak of 10.0 percent in October 2009, nine months after Obama took office.

But average weekly wages have risen just two percent a year since then, barely staying ahead of inflation.

The September jobs data also adds little fresh pressure on the Federal Reserve, which has been focused on cutting joblessness, to move more aggressively to tighten monetary policy from the current easy-money stance.

“Policymakers will certainly be worried by the lack of wage growth," said Chris Williamson at economic consultancy Markit.

"Without substantially higher wage growth, the fear is that households will pull back on consumption if interest rates and borrowing costs start rising, snuffling out the wider economic recovery."