The highly anticipated September jobs report was delayed because of the government shutdown. Given how disappointing the figures were, we probably could have done without it entirely.
Non-farm payrolls expanded by just 148,000 last month, the Department of Labor said Tuesday, well below economists’ average forecast for 180,000 new jobs.
The September figure is a big letdown from August, which was revised upward to show that employers added 193,000 jobs.
True, the unemployment rate, which is derived from a separate survey, fell by more than expected — to 7.2% from 7.3% a month ago — but there’s no way around the fact that hiring was disappointing in September.
Indeed, with the exception of August, hiring slowed sharply in the second half of the year.
In April, May and June, the economy added an average of 182,000 jobs a month. Since then it has averaged just 143,000 jobs a month.
However, as always, whether folks actually landed jobs greatly depended on the industry they were targeting.
Drilling down into the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ September Employment Situation Report showed areas of strength in construction, wholesale trade, along with transportation and warehousing.
The best industry for job-seekers was construction, which rose by 20,000 in September after showing little change over the prior six months, the Labor Department said.
Wholesale trade saw payrolls expand by 16,000 in September. That’s a sharp acceleration for the industry, which added an average of 7,000 jobs a month over the past year.
Transportation and warehousing added 23,000 jobs in September, with most of the gains coming from transit and ground passenger transportation.
Another area of strength was professional and business services, where payrolls expanded by 32,000 positions. The industry has added an average of 52,000 jobs a month over the trailing 12 months.
Retail trade continued to add jobs with 5,000 new positions in building materials and garden supply stores, and 4,000 new jobs at automobile dealers.
On the other side of the ledger, the financial services industry served up pink slips last month, as employment in credit intermediation and related activities fell by 8,000.
Leisure and hospitality was another area of weakness. Bars, restaurants and hotels shed 7,000 jobs in September. However, even after last month’s job losses, the industry has added an average of 28,000 jobs a month over the last year.
Telecommunications was a tough industry for job-seekers last month, as payrolls there contracted by 3,000.
In healthcare, the hiring picture was mixed. Doctors’ offices, outpatient care centers and home healthcare services added 8,000 positions, but payrolls at nursing care facilities contracted by 4,000.
Other areas of weakness included clothing and accessories stores, furniture stores, the performing arts, transportation equipment and local government, excluding education.