U.S. employers added 103,000 workers to their payrolls in September but nearly half the gains reflected striking Verizon workers returning to work, the government reported Friday. The increase wasn't enough to budge a stubborn unemployment rate from 9.1 percent.
But for older workers, the rate fell: For women 55-plus it dipped to 6.6 percent from 7.1 percent, while for men it declined to 6.9 percent from 7 percent.
Analysts noted that overall, 53,000 more older workers had no jobs last month, as downbeat national and world outlooks led employers to put off hiring.
In addition, the average duration of unemployment for workers 55-plus grew by more than two weeks to nearly 55 weeks, compared with about 39 weeks for younger workers, noted Sara Rix, senior strategic adviser for AARP.
'Just hanging in there'
The 103,000 figure was about twice the size that many economists had been predicting as the release of the BLS report drew near. The report’s revision of the August figures of zero net gains to 57,000 jobs also gave some cause for optimism.
But Paul Ashworth, chief North American economist for research firm Capital Economics, says the striking Verizon workers’ return to work distorted the picture. “The upshot is that the underlying acceleration in payrolls last month was actually a lot smaller,” he said. “The U.S. economy is just about hanging in there.”
September's job growth came largely in business and professional services, health care and construction. Local governments continued to lay off workers, mostly in public education — total government employment was down by 34,000 for the month.
The number of unemployed workers rose by 25,000 to 14 million, with 6.2 million people jobless for six months or more as of last month. But there was an increase — from 8.8 million in August to 9.3 million in September — of those working part time because they couldn't find full-time jobs or their hours were cut.
The number of discouraged workers — people who became so depressed about their prospects that they had stopped looking for work and therefore weren't counted among the unemployed — fell slightly to 1 million in September, down by 172,000 from a year earlier.