The U.S. economy added 263,000 jobs last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in its latest nonfarm payrolls report for September. While the gain was lower than August’s upwardly revised 315,000, it surpassed the 250,000 economists had projected. The unemployment rate edged down to 3.5% from 3.7% in August.
The figures reflect slower hiring as the Federal Reserve tightened monetary policy to cool inflation. Still, the stronger-than-expected results show the labor market remains tight and could put pressure on the Fed to keep raising rates.
Total payrolls exceeded 153 million in September, and are now about 0.5 million, or 0.3%, above the pre-pandemic high of 152.5 million in February 2020.
- U.S. employers added 263,000 jobs in September, above expectations of 250,000
- The unemployment rate edged down to 3.5%, from 3.7% in August as more people left the labor force
- Nonfarm payrolls surpassed 153 million for the first time, and are now roughly 0.5 million above the pre-pandemic level in February of 2020
- By industry, gains were strongest within the leisure and hospitality sector, followed by health care and professional and business services
- Wages rose 0.3% from a month earlier, matching the rate in August, though annual wage gains have not kept up with inflation
- A resilient labor market could further support the Federal Reserve’s case for aggressive interest rate hikes to tame inflation
Which Sectors Gained the Most Jobs
By industry, jobs gains were strongest within the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 83,000 jobs. Health care, along with professional and business services, followed with gains of 60,000 and 46,000 jobs, respectively. Jobs in retail trade, transportation, financial activities and government declined, as government jobs dropped by 25,000 positions—the largest of any sector.
Steady Wage Growth
Average hourly earnings for private sector workers rose 0.3% from a month earlier to $32.46, gaining by the same pace as August. Year-over-year, earnings were up 5%, slowing from a 5.2% gain in August and still lagging the inflation rate. The length of the average workweek remained unchanged for a fourth straight month at 34.5 hours.
Labor Force Participation Edges Down
The labor force participation rate ticked down to 62.3% from 62.4% in August, 1.1 percentage points below the pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The employment-to-population ratio was unchanged at 60.1%.
Implications for Fed Policy
The stronger-than-expected payroll gain could further support the Fed’s case for aggressive interest rate hikes to combat inflation, as labor market resilience may add weight to signs that the economy can withstand higher interest rates. Since March, the Fed has raised its benchmark federal funds rate by a cumulative 300 basis points (bps), to a range of 3-3.25%, and is expected to hike interest rates further at its policy meeting in November.