Second straight monthly jobs miss heightens economic fears

Employers added a weaker-than-expected 136,000 jobs in September and wage growth slowed, adding to fears that the U.S. economy is cooling.

Forecasters expected job growth of 145,000. Wages, too, grew more slowly. Average hourly wages grew at 2.9% year-over-year, the first time in more than a year that the rate of increase fell below 3%. The nation’s unemployment rate ticked down to 3.5%, the lowest since December 1969, the Labor Department said Friday.

Wage growth this year peaked in February, increasing at a 3.4% annual rate, and has been trending downward since. That’s far below the pace at which wages should be growing, considering the historically low unemployment, economists say.

“When people see the current modest wage growth, they’re forgetting most workers are struggling to get back to 2008,” said Bill Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO. “We’re way, way away from where we’re supposed to be.”

Hiring for the past two months was revised upward by 45,000 jobs, putting August close to what economists had initially expected. Still, the numbers cap off a week of worrisome economic data that show the services sector, which makes up the bulk of U.S. economic activity, growing at its slowest rate in at least three years. Another key sector, manufacturing, has also tumbled into recession in recent months.

Manufacturing hiring was flat in September, as were other blue-collar sectors including mining and construction. Health care added 39,000 jobs last month, while professional and business services added 34,000.

This is a developing story…

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