Unemployment dips to 5.1 percent

The U.S. economy added 173,000 jobs in August, fewer than economists expected, but the nation’s unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent.

The U.S. economy added 173,000 jobs in August, fewer than economists expected, but the nation’s unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent, the lowest since April 2008 during the early months of the Great Recession.

The Labor Department said there were job gains in health care and social assistance, and financial activities. The manufacturing and mining sectors lost jobs. The department revised its June and July job reports upward by a total of 44,000 and said average hourly earnings rose by 8 cents in August, to $25.09, after a 6-cent gain in July. The wage increase was the largest since January. The job gain was sharply lower than the one for July, which the department revised upward to 245,000 from an initial report of 215,000.

Reuters said the job increase was the smallest rise in five months, but it also said the report may have been tarnished by a statistical fluke that in recent years has frequently led to sharp upward revisions to payroll figures for August after initial weak readings.

"The payrolls data is certainly good enough to allow for a Fed rate hike in September, the big question is still whether financial market volatility will scupper the plans," Alan Ruskin, global head of currency strategy at Deutsche Bank in New York, told Reuters.

“All in all, this is a very good report,” Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pa., told Bloomberg. “It doesn’t seem, based on other data, that what’s happened in financial and international markets is significantly affecting the U.S. economy.”

The government said the number of long-term unemployed (those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more) held at 2.2 million in August and accounted for 27.7 percent of the unemployed.

The number of people who were employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed in August, at 6.5 million. These people, who would have preferred full-time jobs, were working part time because their hours had been cut or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

In August 1.8 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 329,000 from a year earlier, the government said. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Those people were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months.

They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey.