The U.S. employment rate dropped to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August, thanks largely to gains in part-time workers and not due to noted fundamental improvements in the labor market, said Peter Morici, a professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.
The economy added a net 114,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, adding its household survey reported that total employment rose by 873,000 in September, much of which was due to an increase in part-time work. Some 582,000 Americans took part-time positions because of slack business conditions or those jobs were the only work they could find.
The number of unemployed Americans stands at 12.1 million, the fewest since January 2009, though keep the champagne on ice for now.
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"We’re basically creating jobs at the pace that the population grows. We’re not really getting a real decline in unemployment," he said.
"If we go back to when the recovery began, the unemployment rate was 10 percent. Today’s numbers, if the adult participation was where it was then, we’d be at 9.7-9.8 percent unemployment."
The number caught many market observers off guard, surprising many who were expecting the unemployment rate to remain steady or even rise to 8.2 percent.
Former General Electric boss Jack Welch said on his Twitter page that the numbers appeared manipulated.
"Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers," Welch said on his Twitter page, referring to President Barack Obama's performance in the first presidential debate earlier this week.
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While the Obama administration did not likely cook the numbers, which is very hard to do, it shouldn't rush out and claim victory over a soft jobs market and a sluggish economy.
"The economy’s in neutral," Morici said.
"I would give the president the grade of C if he had just taken office and, frankly, a failing grade at this point in time given this very poor performance."...