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September jobs report 300,000 below expectations complicates Fed tightening

October 8, 2021, 12:52 PM UTC

The U.S. added fewer jobs than forecast for a second month in September, signaling weakness in the labor market recovery and complicating a potential decision by the Federal Reserve to begin scaling back monetary support before year end.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 194,000 last month after an upwardly revised 366,000 gain in August, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The unemployment rate fell to 4.8%, while average hourly earnings jumped.

The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for a 500,000 rise in September payrolls.

Consecutive months of sluggish job growth indicate a tug of war between employers — starved for workers to meet demand — and candidates have been slow to return to the workforce. Nonetheless, school reopenings and the end of expanded federal unemployment benefits should lead to a pickup in hiring in coming months at a time when companies are boosting pay.

The jobs figures risk not satisfying the Federal Reserve’s “substantial further progress” criteria for labor market improvement, indicating the central bank could delay its plan to begin tapering asset purchases by year-end.

Chair Jerome Powell said after last month’s policy meeting that “a reasonably good employment report” for September would be needed meet that test.

Vaccine mandates put into place by employers and governors in states including California and New York in recent weeks could also be contributing to churn in the labor market and adding to hiring challenges.

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