Job growth slows in August

The U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs in August, slowing sharply from the two previous months.

The U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs in August, slowing sharply from the two previous months, and the nation’s unemployment rate stayed at 4.9 percent for the third month in a row, the Department of Labor said today.

The government said there were job gains in professional and technical services, financial activities, health care, social assistance, and food services and drinking places.

The department revised the nation’s June jobs gain down from 292,000 to 271,000 and revised its July increase upward from 255,000 to 275,000, leaving the total for both months 1,000 less than previously reported.

The job market’s weaker-than-expected performance makes it less likely that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee will raise rates when it meets Sept. 20-21.

"We had a couple above numbers in the last two months. This is a below-average number," Jeff Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab, told CNBC.

"All that suggests the job market is OK, but it probably does put September off the table" for a rate increase.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose 3 cents in August to $25.73, the government said. Earnings have risen 2.4 percent this year. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 4 cents during the month to $21.64.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged, at 2 million in August. Those people accounted for 26.1 percent of the unemployed.

The government said the number of people employed part time for economic reasons was little changed at 6.1 million. Those people, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours were cut back or they were unable to find a full-time job.

In August 1.7 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, about the same as a year earlier, the government said. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Those people were not in the labor force, but they wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime during the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work during the four weeks that preceded the government’s survey.