WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy added just 148,000 jobs in September, suggesting that employers held back on hiring before a 16-day partial government shutdown began Oct. 1.
Still, hiring was strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. The Labor Department said Tuesday that the rate fell to 7.2 percent, down from 7.3 percent in August and nearly a five-year low.
The economy has added an average of 143,000 jobs a month from July through September, down from 182,000 from April through June.
Revisions to the previous two months were mixed. Employers added 193,000 jobs in August, better than the initial estimate of 169,000. But they added just 89,000 in July, the fewest in more than a year and below the previously reported 104,000.
High unemployment has discouraged many Americans from looking for work. The percentage of Americans working or looking for work remained at a 35-year low in September.
Stock futures rose after the report was released. The weaker job figures make it more likely that the Federal Reserve will maintain its level of bond purchases when it meets next month. The bond purchases are intended to lower long-term interest rates and boost borrowing and spending.