The U.S. unemployment rate dropped sharply to 7.8 percent in September, its lowest level since the month President Obama took office, the Labor Department said Oct. 12.
While employers added only a modest 114,000 jobs last month, the jobless rate declined from 8.1 percent in August. The unemployment rate fell because more people were working, not because discouraged job seekers stopped looking, the numbers showed.
Job gains were revised upward by 40,000 for July (to 181,000) and by 46,000 for August (to 142,000), casting a slightly rosier light on what had been perceived as a summer slump.
However the positive news comes amid a raft of mixed signs for the economy. Consumer confidence has moved higher in recent months and the hard-hit housing sector is improving, but other areas of the economy have seen tepid growth.
The Commerce Department last week revised down the second-quarter real gross domestic product growth from 1.7 percent to 1.3 percent. And many economists expect activity in the final quarter of the year to be subdued due to uncertainty surrounding the twin year-end threats of spending cuts and expiring tax breaks.
The employment report for October will be released on Nov. 2, just four days before the U.S. election.