Unemployment dips to 7.2 percent

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The U.S. economy added 148,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate edged down to 7.2 percent, its lowest level since November 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said today.

Reuters reported that the job total was lower than expected and said it suggested that the economy was losing momentum, which probably would make the Federal Reserve more cautious about deciding when to reduce its monthly bond purchases.

Economists that Reuters polled had expected a gain of 180,000 jobs in September.

"This report on the labor market will soften people's assessments of current conditions," said Cary Leahey, a senior economist at Decision Economics in New York, told the news service.

The monthly employment report was released later than usual because of the partial federal government shutdown that ended last week.

The government said employment rose in construction, wholesale trade, and transportation and warehousing. Although the jobless rate showed little change in September, the rate has declined by 0.4 percent since June, the government said. The number of unemployed people was also little changed at 11.3 million, but has fallen by 522,000 since June.

The number of long-term unemployed, defined as people who have been jobless for 27 weeks or longer, was little changed at 4.1 million. The number of people working part time for economic reasons was unchanged at 7.9 million in September.

The government said there were 2.3 million people who wanted work and had looked for a job sometime during the last 12 months. They weren’t counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work during the four weeks that preceded the survey.