The unemployment rate in the U.S. unexpectedly fell to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest since January 2009, as employers took on more part-time workers.
The economy added 114,000 workers last month after a revised 142,000 gain in August that was more than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 92 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an advance of 115,000. The jobless rate dropped from 8.1 percent and hourly earnings climbed more than forecast.
Improving employment prospects that lead to stronger wage growth provide workers with the wherewithal to boost their spending, helping cushion the economy from a global slowdown. Todayâ€™s employment report is the penultimate before the November elections as President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney debate whose policies would best spur job growth.
â€œThe labor market is slowly regaining footing,â€ Eric Green, global head of rates and foreign-exchange research at TD Securities Inc. in New York, said before the report. â€œThe Federal Reserve wants to see traction, faster growth.â€
The unemployment rate, derived from a survey of households, was forecast to rise to 8.2 percent, according to the survey median. Estimates ranged from 8 percent to 8.3 percent.
The household survey showed an 873,000 increase in employment, the biggest since June 1983, excluding the annual Census benchmarks. Some 582,000 Americans took part-time positions because of slack business conditions or those jobs were the only work they could find.
Payrolls projections in the Bloomberg survey ranged from increases of 60,000 to 165,000 following an initially reported 96,000 gain in August. Revisions to July and August added a total of 86,000 jobs to payrolls in the previous two months.
Private payrolls, which exclude government agencies, rose by 104,000 in September. They were projected to advance by 130,000, the survey showed.
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