The Labor Department reported the economy created just 142,000 jobs in September, well below most forecasts. Furthermore, the prior two months’ numbers were revised down as well, bringing the average for the last three months to 167,000. In addition, there was a drop in the length of the average workweek of 0.1 hour causing the index of aggregate hours to decline by 0.2 percent. This drop, combined with a modest fall in the average hourly wage, led to a 0.3 percent decline in the average weekly wage.
The household survey also showed a weak picture of the labor market. While the unemployment rate was unchanged there was a drop of 0.2 percentage points in both the labor force participation rate and the employment to population ratio. The share of unemployment due to people who voluntarily quit their jobs remained at the low 9.8 percent rate of August, a level typically seen in recessions. The one piece of clear good news in the survey was a drop of 447,000 in the number of people working part-time for economic reasons. This number is erratic, but this is an unusually large one-month decline.
On the whole this report suggests the labor market is considerably weaker than had been generally believed. It is likely to make it much more difficult for the Federal Reserve Board to raise rates this year.