Labor update: Payrolls grow, jobless rate at 50-year low

Payrolls continue to grow in the United States even as the unemployment rate remains at a 50-year low.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 136,000 in September, and the jobless rate retreated two-tenths of a point to 3.5 percent, according to the latest Labor Department estimates.

The unemployment rate is the lowest since the rate also stood at 3.5 percent in December 1969.

The initial estimate for payroll gains in August were revised upward 38,000 to 168,000. The gain for July was revised upward 7,000 to 166,000.

With the latest numbers, payrolls increased an average of 161,000 a month through the first three quarters of 2019. Payrolls increased an average of 223,000 a month in 2018.

For September, 5.8 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work. Of those, 1.3 million people have been out of work 27 weeks or longer. Another 4.4 million people were counted among those working part time because their hours were cut or they were unable to find full-time positions.

The labor participation rate remained unchanged at 63.2 percent.

Payroll gains were spread out among industry sectors. Employment increased 39,000 in health care, 34,000 in professional and business services and 16,000 in transportation and warehousing. Government payrolls increased 22,000.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls held steady at 34.4 hours. The average manufacturing workweek remained unchanged at 40.5 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls slipped a cent to $28.09. Over the past year, though, average hourly earnings have increased 2.9 percent.