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U.S. employers added far more jobs than anticipated in September


We got some stunning news about the job market this morning. U.S. employers added 336,000 jobs last month. That's about twice as many as forecasters were expecting. And while it's encouraging for anyone looking for work, it could complicate the Federal Reserve's efforts to bring down inflation. Here to dig into the numbers is NPR's Scott Horsley. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: Good morning. So what does the report show?

HORSLEY: It shows that it was a sizzling September in the U.S. job market - far from slowing down, as forecasters expected. Employers ramped up their hiring last month. Job numbers for July and August were also revised up by more than 100,000 jobs. The September gains were really widespread. Almost every industry added workers. There were big gains in health care and hospitality. Bars and restaurants added 61,000 jobs, and they're now finally back to where they were before the pandemic. So maybe the days of restaurant owners having to wash their own dishes are finally behind us. Even construction and manufacturing firms added jobs last month, even though those are industries that typically see a slowdown when interest rates rise like they have.

FADEL: OK. So everything you're describing sounds like good news. And the stock market's down this morning. So why is that?

HORSLEY: Yeah. Investors are nervous that the Federal Reserve will see this and push interest rates even higher in order to get prices under control. Certainly, the Fed has been keeping a close eye on the job market. Fed policymakers worry that if the market's too tight, it could put upward pressure on wages, and that, in turn, could fuel inflation. But despite the big job gains last month, we did not see any acceleration in wage growth. In fact, wage gains were a little bit lower than expected. Average wages in September were up 4.2% from a year ago, and wages rose just two-tenths of a percent between August and September. So that's - those wage gains are not something that's really going to make the Fed overly nervous, I don't think.

FADEL: So what's happening with the unemployment rate?

HORSLEY: The unemployment rate held steady in September at 3.8%. That is up a little bit from where we were earlier in the year. But it's still very low by historical standards. The jobless rate had ticked up a bit in August, when there was a big surge of new people coming off the sidelines and joining or rejoining the workforce. That's really a good sign. It typically means people think that jobs are available, and if you've got more people working, you can grow the economy without putting upward pressure on inflation. One cautionary note, we did see a rise in the unemployment rate for African Americans last month. It went from 5.3 to 5.7%. But that is a very noisy number. It was 5.8% in July. It was 5.9% a year ago. So I wouldn't read too much into the one-month increase. It is something to keep an eye on, though.

FADEL: You know, as we're talking about labor and jobs, I'm thinking of the big autoworkers strike that's going on right now. Does the report say anything about that?

HORSLEY: No. This report is based on a jobs tally that was done in the middle of September, just before the UAW strike began. So...


HORSLEY: ...It doesn't reflect the 25,000 or so autoworkers who are on strike right now or the several thousand more workers who've been idled because of part shortages related to the strike. It also does not reflect the resolution of the writers strike in Hollywood. So we'll keep an eye out to see if those numbers show up in the October employment report. Something that does show up this morning, though, is 9,000 new trucking jobs. That follows a big loss of trucking jobs in August when the Yellow trucking company suddenly went out of business. So it looks like somewhere around a third of those truck drivers have found new employment.

FADEL: NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.