US adds fewer jobs than expected in September, unemployment hits 50-year low

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  • Government data out Friday showed hiring cooled but held up at a solid pace in September.
  • The jobs report offered a snapshot of the American economy at a time of heightened uncertainty.
  • Trade tensions have added pressure to a labor market that was already expected to slow this year.
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Government data out Friday showed hiring cooled but held up at a solid pace in September, offering a snapshot of the American economy during a period marked by heightened uncertainty and concerns about a potential slowdown.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the US added 136,000 nonfarm payrolls last month, fewer than the 168,000 created in September but enough to push unemployment levels to fresh lows at 3.5%. Economists had forecast an increase of 147,000.

Trade tensions have added pressure to a labor market that was already expected to slow this year as the effects of tax cuts and other stimulus measures began to fade. Between July and September, an average of 157,000 jobs were created.

"Economic growth, and therefore job creation, are showing clear signs of slowing," said Cailin Birch, global economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit. "The core issue behind this is trade policy uncertainty, and the negative impact this has already had on some key export markets for US firms, including the EU and China."

The effects of tariffs levied between the US and major trading partners have grown increasingly evident in recent weeks, fueling broader concerns about the economy. On Tuesday, data showed the manufacturing sector fell deeper into a recession in September as new orders and hiring cooled further.

"The uncertainty linked to the direction of trade policy may exact a larger price on hiring across goods producing and manufacturing jobs," said Joe Brusuelas, the chief economist at RSM, a financial consulting firm.

The Trump administration plans to expand tariffs to thousands of consumer products from China and the European Union in the coming months, putting businesses and households more directly at risk. Separate data out Thursday suggested higher costs and uncertainty have started to weigh on the service sector, which accounts for a majority of activity in the economy.

This story is developing. Check back for more updates.

Read more: Trump promised to revive US manufacturing. But the sector just plunged deeper into a recession.

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