U.S. employers added just 194,000 jobs in September, far fewer than forecasts of 500,000, and the unemployment rate fell from 5.2% to 4.8%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Job gains in August and July were revised higher, by 131,000 and 38,000, respectively, although the monthly average of job additions fell to 561,000 from 636,000 as the U.S. labor market continues its uneven recovery.

The job gains were the most robust in the leisure and hospitality industry, which has been the most impacted amid the pandemic. 74,000 jobs were added in that sector with the majority in the arts, entertainment and recreation. 60,000 jobs were added in the professional and business services industries as more companies return to their offices. The hotel industry added only 2,100 jobs in September, a sign that the travel industry remains compromised given the uncertainty around the delta variant.

While the unemployment rate dropped to 4.8% from 5.2%, the labor force participation rate was little changed at 61.6%. That is 1.7% lower than it was in February of 2020, before the pandemic impacted the economy. This shows that fewer Americans are seeking to return to the workforce despite a large number of job openings across industries.

Wages continued to increase for all employees across sectors, the DOL reported. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private payrolls rose by $0.19, following large increases over the past five months. Although wages have been rising, and pandemic unemployment benefits expired in September, higher pay is not pulling more Americans back into the workforce.

Unemployment by race continues to be uneven. Black unemployment is nearly twice as high as it is for White workers, although the jobless rate for all races has come down considerably from the highs of 2020.