US employers added a modest 136,000 jobs in September, enough to help lower the unemployment rate to a new five-decade low of 3.5 percent.
The figures show that hiring has slowed this year as the US-China trade war has intensified, global growth has slowed and businesses have reduced their investment spending. Even so, recent job gains have averaged 157,000 over the past three months, enough to absorb new job seekers and potentially lower unemployment over time.
Besides issuing the jobs data for September, the government on Friday also revised up its earlier estimates of the gains for July and August by a combined 45,000. The steadiness of US hiring, despite its slowing pace, may help ease concerns that the economy might be edging closer to a potential recession.
Despite ultra-low unemployment, which fell from 3.7 percent in August, average hourly wages slipped by a penny, the Labor Department said Friday in its monthly jobs report. Hourly pay rose just 2.9 percent from a year earlier, below the 3.4 percent year-over-year gain at the start of the year.
The September jobs report is likely to keep the Federal Reserve on track to cut rates later this month for the third time this year to try to help sustain the expansion.