U.S. jobless rate slips below 8 percent

The monthly unemployment rate in the United States has dipped below 8 percent for the first time since the start of 2009 on what was reported as a surge in the number of people taking part-time positions. The results of a separate survey pegged the increase in nonfarm payrolls at 114,000.

According to the latest Labor Department estimates, the U.S. unemployment rate slipped three-tenths of a point to 7.8 percent in September. That’s the lowest level since the jobless rate also stood at 7.8 percent in January 2009. The rate had remained above 8 percent since February 2009, the longest stretch since monthly jobless figures first were reported in 1948.

The unemployment rate is based on the results of a household surveys and what was reported as an increase of 873,000 in total employment in September — the largest such gain since June 1983. Of the total, though, 582,000 people reported taking part-time positions because of business conditions or they were the only jobs available.

A broader measure of unemployment that takes into account those looking for work and those with part-time jobs remained unchanged at 14.7 percent in September.

According to the results of the separate establishment survey of businesses, nonfarm payrolls increased 114,000 in September. Initial estimates for August and July were revised upward a total of 96,000, meaning payrolls increased a total of 323,000 during the two months.

Given the latest numbers, nonfarm payrolls have increased an average of 146,000 so far in 2012. That compares to an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011.

For September 2012, nonfarm payroll gains were spread out among a number of industry sectors. Health care employment continued to trend up with 44,000 net new jobs. The transportation and warehousing sector added 17,000 jobs, while the financial activities sector added another 13,000 positions. Government payrolls grew 10,000.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls edged up a tenth of an hur to 34.5 hours. The average manufacturing workweek rose a tenth of an hour to 40.6 hours. Average hourly earnings on private, nonfarm payrolls increased seven cents to $23.58. Over the past year, average hourly wages have increased 1.8 percent.