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Jobless rate falls as more give up looking for work

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added 96,000 jobs last month, a weak figure that could slow any momentum President Barack Obama hoped to gain from his speech to the Democratic National Convention.

The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July, the Labor Department said Friday. But that was only because more people gave up looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively searching.

The government also said 41,000 fewer jobs were created in July and June than first estimated. The economy has added just 139,000 jobs a month since the beginning of the year, below 2011’s average of 153,000.

The report was weak throughout. Hourly pay fell, manufacturers cut the most jobs in two years and the number of people in the work force dropped to its lowest level in 31 years.

Sluggish hiring could nudge the Federal Reserve to announce some new action to boost growth after its meeting next week.

The report on hiring and unemployment is among the most politically consequential of the campaign. The figures arrive just as the presidential race enters its final stretch. Jobs are the core issue, and the report could sway some undecided voters.

 There will be two additional employment reports before Election Day Nov. 6. But by then, more Americans will have made up their minds.