Employers added 103,000 jobs in September, a modest burst of hiring after a sluggish summer, but the unemployment rate stayed at 9.1% for the third straight month. Nearly half of the gains last month occurred because 45,000 striking Verizon workers returned to their jobs. The private sector added 137,000 jobs; government shed 34,000 jobs as local governments cut teachers and other school employees. Employers have added an average of only 72,000 jobs in the past five months; the economy must create twice as many just to keep up with population growth.
In slightly better news, the Labor Department also revised the previous two months to show that companies hired at a better pace than first estimated. The Wall Street Journal notes that stock futures headed higher after the report. Jonathan Cheng observes, "private-sector hiring is the star of this report, suggesting that companies perhaps haven't been as cautious as everyone has made them out to be." (Read more unemployment stories.)