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America's employers added 661,000 jobs in September, the third straight month of slower hiring and evidence from the final jobs report before the presidential election that the economic recovery has weakened.
With September's hiring gain, the economy has recovered only slightly more than half the 22 million jobs that were wiped out by the viral pandemic. The nearly 10 million jobs that remain lost exceed the number that the nation shed during the entire 2008-2009 Great Recession. By comparison with September, employers added nearly 1.5 million jobs in August, 1.8 million in July and 4.8 million in June.
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The unemployment rate for September fell to 7.9 percent, down from 8.4 percent in August, the Labor Department said Friday. The September unemployment rate for adults age 55 and older was 6.7 percent, down from 7.7 percent one month earlier. Since April, the jobless rate has tumbled from 14.7 percent. But last month's drop in joblessness reflected largely a drop in the number of people seeking work, rather than a surge in hiring. The government doesn't count people as unemployed if they aren't actively looking for a job.
Including part-time workers who would prefer full-time work and people who have stopped looking for a job, a broader measure of what is called underemployment was 12.8 percent in September, down from 14.2 percent in August.
Many job losses have become permanent
Last month's job gains appeared to reflect mainly temporarily laid-off workers who were recalled to their old jobs, continuing a trend in place since April, rather than people joining new employers. In a worrisome sign, the number of Americans who say their jobs are gone for good rose to 3.8 million from 3.4 million.
The September jobs report coincides with other data that suggests that while the economic picture may be improving, the gains have slowed since summer. The economy is under pressure from a range of threats. They include the expiration of federal aid programs that had fueled rehiring and sustained the economy — from a $600-a-week benefit for the unemployed to $500 billion in forgivable short-term loans to small businesses.