U.S. gains 148,000 jobs; jobless rate, 7.2%

Update 8:44 am

Employers added a disappointing 148,000 jobs in September, extending a summer slowdown in payroll growth.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.2% from 7.3%, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

The closely-watched survey was scheduled to be released Oct. 4, but was delayed by the federal government shutdown.

Economists' consensus forecast had estimated that 180,000 jobs were added last month.

Businesses added just 126,000 jobs, while federal, state and local governments added 22,000.

Job gains for July and August were revised up by a total 9,000. July's were revised down to 89,000 from 104,000. August's were revised up to 193,000 from 169,000.

Several reports fueled hopes for a strengthening job market in September. Initial unemployment claims fell to post-recession lows and a measure of manufacturing activity rose solidly. The anticipation was tempered by payroll processor ADP's survey that showed businesses added 166,000 jobs last month.

Monthly job gains slowed over the summer after averaging about 200,000 earlier this year, according to the Labor Department. The dip helped prompt the Federal Reserve to delay tapering its $85 billion a month in bond-buying in September.

In the fourth quarter, meanwhile, economic and job growth had been expected to ratchet higher as the effects of federal spending cuts fade and the housing recovery and low household debt levels spur more consumer and business spending. But the recent shutdown and the budget deadlock in Congress has led many economists to push back those expectations into next year.

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NEW YORK — The 16-day government shutdown put some key economic data releases in a 747-like holding pattern over the Wall Street runway.

The data trail that serves as the bloodstream for markets went silent for awhile. But it starts to rev back up in a big way Tuesday with the release of the September employment report, which was initially scheduled for release on Oct. 4 — or what turned out to be Day 4 of the government shutdown.

Investors will be closely watching to see how many jobs were created last month and whether the unemployment rate, currently 7.3%, ticked up or down. Before the shutdown, the September jobs report was viewed as a key piece of data that the Federal Reserve would analyze before making a decision on when to start dialing back its investor-friendly bond-buying program.

But most Fed watchers and some Fed members themselves have ruled out the start of tapering at the central bank's meeting later this month or even in December, in part because the shutdown harmed the economy. Many think the Fed won't taper until 2014.

But that doesn't mean the number of jobs created in September (the consensus among economists is 180,000, up from 169,000 in August) or the unemployment rate (expected to dip to 7.2% from 7.3%) will be totally ignored by the Fed and market participants, says Joe Deaux, an economics analyst at TheStreet. "I don't think Tuesday's jobs number is unimportant," he says.


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