U.S. jobless rate retreats to lowest level since 1969

The United States unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level in nearly 50 years as payrolls continue to grow.

The jobless rate slipped two-tenths of a point to 3.7 percent in September, according to the latest Labor Department estimates. That’s the lowest reading since December 1969.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 134,000. The smallest monthly gain in a year could be attributed in part to the effects of Hurricane Florence on the East Coast.

Estimated job gains for the previous two months were revised upward a total of 87,000 to 270,000 for August and 165,000 for July. Given the latest numbers, job gains have averaged 201,000 a month over the past year.

Still, 6 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work in August. Of those, 1.4 million have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. Another 4.6 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours had been cut or they’ve been unable to find full-time positions.

The labor participation rate held steady at 62.7 percent.

Job gains for September were spread out among industry sectors. Business and professional services added 54,000 positions, while payrolls increased 26,000 in health care, 24,000 in transportation and warehousing, 23,000 in construction and 18,000 in manufacturing. Employment declined 17,000 in leisure and hospitality, a drop that could reflect the effects of Hurricane Florence.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls held steady at 34.5 hours. The manufacturing workweek shortened a tenth of an hour to 40.8 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 8 cents to $27.24 in September. Over the past year, hourly wages have increased 73 cents, or 2.8 percent.