The Labor Department said Friday that employers added 114,000 jobs in September. The economy also created 86,000 more jobs in July and August than first estimated. Wages rose in September and more people started looking for work.
The revisions show employers added 146,000 jobs per month from July through September, up from 67,000 in the previous three months. The unemployment rate fell from 8.1 percent in August, matching its level in January 2009 when President Barack Obama took office.
RELATED: The decline could help Obama, who is coming off a disappointing debate performance against GOP challenger Mitt Romney. (See More Below) | Improving Economy or Campaign Ploy? Leave A Comment
Stock futures rose modestly after the report. Dow Jones industrial average futures, up 30 points just before the report came out, were up 45 points after it was released.
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note climbed to 1.73 percent from 1.68 percent just before the report, a sign that investors were more willing to embrace risk and moving money from bonds into stocks.
The job market has been improving, sluggishly but steadily. Jobs have been added for 24 straight months. There are now 325,000 more than when Obama took office.
The September gains were led by the health care industry, which added 44,000 jobs - the most since February. Transportation and warehousing also showed large gains. The revisions showed that governments actually added 63,000 jobs in July and August, compared with earlier estimates that showed losses.
Still, many of the jobs added last month were part time. The number of people with part-time jobs who wanted full-time work rose 7.5 percent to 8.6 million.
Meanwhile, on the Campaign Trail.....
The new unemployment data is likely to ensure that jobs remain the top issue of the presidential campaign.
Jobs have been a central theme in this election. The words "job" and "jobs" were among the most frequently mentioned in Wednesday's debate in Denver, uttered at a rate of more than once every two minutes in a 90-minute showdown.
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A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that the vast majority of voters already have settled on a candidate, but 17 percent of likely voters are considered persuadable - either because they're undecided or showing soft support for Obama or Romney. Roughly 56 percent of persuadables approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president, but fewer, 47 percent, approve of his handling of the economy.
While the slow recovery has been a drag on Obama's re-election hopes, the monthly reminders of joblessness have not markedly altered the trajectory of the presidential campaign.
Last month's weak hiring numbers for instance came out just a day after Obama delivered his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Yet they didn't appear to interfere with Obama's post-convention bounce in public opinion polls or with perceptions that he would be as good as Romney at creating jobs.
The unemployment rate has been fluctuating between 8.1 percent and 8.3 percent since January after being stuck at between 8.9 percent and 9.1 percent for 10 months in 2011."I don't think these jobs numbers have really sent a fundamentally different signal about the economy than what voters already know,"
-- John Sides, a George Washington University political scientist who has examined the relationship of economic data and presidential politics.
"If it was abysmal enough to drive news coverage in a significantly different way, that combined with the debate performance last night might sort of help Romney close the gap even further," Sides said.
But, he added, "these numbers, however much they represent real suffering among Americans, are not quite flashy enough to suggest either good news or really bad news."
On average, the economy has added just 87,400 jobs a month since April. That's down from an average of 226,000 jobs a month in the January-March quarter. In an indicator that typically is higher than the government's figures, payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that private employers added 162,000 jobs last month, exceeding economists' estimates.
Romney will certainly use Friday's report to cast Obama as ineffective in job creation. Speaking in Denver on Thursday morning, Romney said Obama would raise taxes on small businesses "which will kill jobs."
"I instead want to keep taxes down on small business so we can create jobs," Romney added. "This is about good jobs for the American people."
At his own Denver rally Thursday, Obama countered that Romney offered the same economic remedies of the past. "We cannot afford to double down on the same top-down economic policies that got us into this mess. That is not a plan to create jobs."
No president has been re-elected with unemployment above 8 percent since the Great Depression. But analysts and Obama advisers maintain that the rate is less important than the trajectory, and Obama aides are quick to note that the past recession drove unemployment up to 10 percent in 2009 before beginning to drop.
"I think that there's a broad recognition of where we are," Obama campaign senior political adviser David Axelrod said. "So unless they're startlingly different, I don't think that this particular jobs report is going to be determinative. That's been the pattern. People understand we're in a long-term project here and we have to keep moving forward."
But the jobless numbers, the most attention-grabbing economic data point, also doesn't exist in a vacuum. Other indicators, taken together, present a mixed economic recovery that is trending positive.
Consumer confidence grew last month. Average rates on fixed mortgages fell to record lows for the second straight week and mortgage applications climbed 16.6 percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Still, underscoring the mixed picture, the Commerce Department said Thursday that factory orders fell 5.2 percent in August, the biggest drop in more than three years.
Last week, the Obama administration got some good news when the Labor Department reported that the economy added 386,000 more jobs than had previously been estimated in the 12 months ended in March. The revision officially put job creation under Obama's presidency in the black, with more jobs in the U.S. now than when he took office.