The unemployment rate tumbled in September as more people returned to the labor force and steady hiring continued.
Employers added 114,000 jobs during the month, down from a revised 142,000 jobs in August, the Labor Department said Friday. But revisions to July and August mean the economy added 86,000 more jobs than originally reported in those months.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 7.8 percent in September, from 8.1 percent the prior month.
Those figures are roughly in line with economists' forecasts, and although the revisions were positive, the economy is growing at the same sluggish pace it has been since the spring.
The country generally needs at least 150,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with population growth.
Most economists predict the U.S. economy will grow no faster than 3 percent a year, until at least 2014.
That's hardly fast enough to recover all the jobs lost since 2007. Of the 8.8 million jobs cut during the recession, about 4.3 million have been added back. The Labor Department signaled last week that it may revise the job gains higher, but even so, the job market still has a long way to go before it's fully healed.
About 12.1 million people were unemployed in September, and 40 percent of them have been so for six months or more.
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