US employers added just 148,000 jobs in September – far fewer than expected – suggesting a loss of momentum in the economy.
Still, hiring was strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
The Labor Department said the rate fell to 7.2%, down from 7.3% in August and nearly a five-year low.
The weaker job figures make it more likely that the Federal Reserve will maintain its level of bond purchases when it meets next month.
The bond purchases are intended to lower long-term interest rates and boost borrowing and spending.
The closely-watched monthly employment report was released more than two weeks later than originally scheduled because of the partial shutdown of the federal government.
The government reopened last week after the 16-day shutdown that may have further depressed economic growth and hiring.
Temporary layoffs of federal workers and private government contractors will probably lower October’s job gains. But that is likely to be a temporary decline.
Many economists say they will not have a clear view on hiring and unemployment until the November jobs report is released, in early December.
High unemployment has discouraged many Americans from looking for work. The percentage of Americans working or looking for work remained at a 35-year low in September.
There were some positive aspects in the latest jobs report, though.
Several higher-paying industries added jobs at a healthy pace, while construction firms gained 20,000 positions.
Government boosted payrolls by 22,000, and transportation and warehousing gained 23,400 jobs.
Despite the jobless rate being at its lowest level since November 2008, the market reaction has been relatively soft.
The market was expecting 180,000 net new jobs and Dow Futures were just 0.3% higher ahead of the 2.30pm opening.
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