US added 148,000 jobs in September

Queue of people at a jobs fair in Miami The pace of expansion was slower than economists predicted

The US economy added 148,000 jobs in September, official figures show, lower than analysts had predicted.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.2%, down from 7.3% in August, the US Department of Labor said.

The release of the figures was delayed by the partial shutdown of the US government earlier this month.

Economists had predicted 180,000 job gains for September, and the lower-than-expected figure could raise fears the US economy is losing momentum.

Employment in professional and business services grew at the fastest pace with 32,000 new jobs added. Leisure and hospitality was the only sector to see a fall with 13,000 jobs lost.

Carl Leahey, senior adviser at Decision Economics, said the report was "so-so", and meant the US central bank was likely to continue its massive $85bn-a-month economic stimulus programme.

Analysis

To many continental European countries these figures must look quite respectable: two million new jobs in the US in the last year and an unemployment rate of 7.2% compared with the eurozone's 12%.

But the American labour market is still not strong. For one thing, the population is growing and a certain amount of job creation is needed just to keep up. There has also been an increase in the number not counted as unemployed because they are not actively looking for work - they are described as "not in the labour force".

In the new figures, the percentage of the population who DO have a job is still less than it was at the end of the recession in June 2009. Hence the view in the markets that the Federal Reserve will be in no rush to cut back on its effort to stimulate the economy, quantitative easing.

"This report will soften people's assessments of current conditions. With the possibility of a replay of the budget showdown as early as mid-January, why would the Fed want to pull any levers now?," he said.

Stocks rise

Following the figures, stock markets turned higher, with the FTSE 100 up 0.5% at 6,688 and both the Dow futures and broader S&P index futures up 0.3%, as investors bet on the Fed continuing its stimulus programme at the same pace.

The dollar fell, under pressure from the expectation that the stimulus programme, which effectively creates more dollars, will continue at the same rate.

The US central bank, the Federal Reserve, maintained its economic stimulus programme last month, suggesting it was still uncertain about the strength of the economic recovery.

"Today's underperforming jobs number fully justifies September's cautious FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee)," said Joseph Trevisani, chief market strategist at WorldwideMarkets.

The Labor Department said the next US unemployment data would be released on 8 November, a week later than scheduled due to the partial shutdown of the US government.

Its workers were placed on unpaid leave during the shutdown raising fears the department will struggle to collect accurate data for October.

"The October survey will be compromised by the late survey and the unquantifiable indirect private sector job losses triggered by the shutdown, and the November numbers will be compromised by the recovery - we hope - of those same jobs," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

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