U.S. employers added 110,000 new jobs in September and hiring in the two previous months was revised up strongly, the government said on Friday in a report showing a more resilient labor market than previously thought.
The surprisingly robust report on monthly hiring outside the farm sector sent bond prices higher and stock futures soaring as investors bet it reduced chances for more cuts in official interest rates by the Federal Reserve any time soon.
The unemployment rate edged up to 4.7 percent from 4.6 percent in August and was the highest since 4.8 percent in July 2006 as the size of the labor force increased.
The payrolls data and the jobless rate are compiled from separate surveys and it was the jobs number -- especially the July and August revisions -- that drew analysts' attention.
The department said 89,000 jobs were created in August, rather than the 4,000 that it reported last month were lost. It also said 93,000 jobs were created in July instead of 68,000 it previously reported -- a total of 118,000 more jobs in the July-August period than it had earlier estimated.
"The economy still looks pretty healthy," said economist Gary Thayer of A.G. Edwards and Sons Inc. in St. Louis.
The report paints a "clearly different picture ... than in August and traders are anticipating the economy will continue to grow and not slide into recession." Thayer added.
The September total for jobs created outside the farm sector was modestly higher than the 100,000 that economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast but it was overshadowed by big upward revisions in July and August hiring.
The reason cited for the reversal in the department's August hiring estimate -- to a jobs gain instead of a loss - was the government underestimated government employment, especially hiring of teachers to start a new school year.
The bulk of the gains in September hiring came in service industries, including an addition of 44,000 in education and health services and 37,000 in the government. In the goods-producing sector, another 18,000 factory jobs were shed and 14,000 construction jobs were lost.
Some analysts cautioned that, notwithstanding the relatively strong third-quarter job performance, the pace of hiring may soften. The U.S. housing sector remains in decline and the consequences of disruptions in financial markets stemming from U.S. subprime mortgage problems have not yet been fully felt.
"It shows that in the immediate aftermath of all the turmoil on Wall Street in July and August, Main Street jobs were still growing, particularly in the private sector at a moderate pace," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, Pittsburgh.
"Maybe it does say that the Fed skips the month of October on a rate cut, but there is still evidence here that job growth is not growing like it was," Hoffman said.