U.S. Payrolls Disappoint, Though Jobless Rate Falls to 50-year Low

Unemployment hit a fresh 50-year low in September even though non-farm payrolls rose by just 136,000 as the economy nears full employment, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday.

The jobless rate dropped 0.2 percentage points to 3.5%, matching a level it last saw in December 1969. A more encompassing measure that includes discouraged workers and the underemployed also fell, declining 0.3 percentage points to 6.9%, matching its lowest in nearly 19 years and just off the all-time low of 6.8%.

At the same time, the American economy saw another sluggish month of growth. The non-farm payrolls count missed the 145,000 estimate from economists surveyed by Dow Jones; the expectation on the jobless rate was to hold steady at 3.7%.

Wages also were a disappointment, with average hourly earnings little changed over the month and up just 2.9% for the year, the lowest increase since July 2018.