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Jobless Rate Ticks Down To 7.3 Percent; 169,000 Jobs Added

A recruiter for Cigna greets a job seeker at a career fair in Philadelphia over the summer.
Mark Makela
Reuters /Landov
A recruiter for Cigna greets a job seeker at a career fair in Philadelphia over the summer.

The nation's jobless rate dipped to 7.3 percent in August from 7.4 percent in July as 169,000 jobs were added to public and private payrolls, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated Friday morning.

The figures were roughly in line with what economists had been expecting to hear.

But buried within the report was troubling news: Instead of the 162,000 jobs that BLS thought had been added to payrolls in July, it now estimates that employment grew by just 104,000 jobs that month. Also, the jobless rate dipped in part because the percentage of Americans who count themselves as being part of the labor force (either because they're working or looking for work) hit a 35-year low.

We'll post more highlights from the report, as well as reactions to it and analyses about how policymakers at the Federal Reserve may react, in the coming hour. Be sure to hit your "refresh" button to see our latest updates.

Update at 9:58 a.m. ET. White House Calls News "Another Sign Of Progress":

"Over the last four years, we've cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis and begun to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth," says White House economic adviser Jason Furman. "While continued solid job gains, today's employment report is another sign of progress, the report also underscores the need to continue pursuing policies that move our economy forward and restore middle class security."

Update at 9:20 a.m. ET. All In All, A Sign That Things Got Worse?

Here's how MarketWatch sums up the report:

"The U.S. added a modest 169,000 new jobs in August, the number of positions created in July was slashed and more workers dropped out of a labor force in a sign that hiring conditions worsened toward the end of the summer. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, ticked down to 7.3% from 7.4%, but that was because fewer people were searching for work."

Update at 9:10 a.m. ET. Fed Could Go Either Way?

The report "'is a mixed bag that can be used to support an immediate tapering of the Fed's monthly asset purchases or delaying that move until later this year," Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, tells The Associated Press.

Update at 9:05 a.m. ET. "Participation Rate" Lowest In 35 Years:

In what could be a disturbing sign that many Americans are still finding it hard to get work, the report says the labor force "participation rate" last month was 63.2 percent — the lowest it's been since August 1978.

As The Wall Street Journal says, "today's jobless-rate decline to 7.3% from 7.4% comes on a blatant fall in the number of Americans looking for work ... and that's by no means a sign of a healthy jobs market."

Note: Earlier we made a math mistake and said it was the lowest in 25 years. We've corrected our error.

Update at 9 a.m. ET. Will The Fed Hold Off On Dialing Back?

Bloomberg News writes that:

"Fed policy makers have been weighing data to determine whether the economy is strong enough for it to scale back the pace of its $85 billion in monthly bond buying. The Fed said Sept. 4 that the economy maintained a modest to moderate pace of growth.

"Fed Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans, a voter on policy this year, said today the central bank shouldn't taper its $85 billion in monthly bond buying until inflation and economic growth pick up. He has consistently supported record stimulus."

Update at 8:58 a.m. ET. Another "Mediocre Jobs Report," Boehner Says:

Calling the news "another mediocre jobs report," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says in a statement released by his office that: "The sooner President Obama starts working with both parties to expand American energy production, repeal his health care law and focus on patient-centered reforms, and solve Washington's spending problem, the stronger our economy will be for all Americans."

Update at 8:55 a.m. ET. Jobless Rate Is Lowest In Nearly 5 Years:

At 7.3 percent, the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since December 2008. Its recent peak, 10 percent, came in October 2009. A year ago, the rate stood at 8.1 percent.

Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. "Music To Traders' Ears?"

Here's an early conclusion from The Wall Street Journal:

"Dow futures are at the highs of the morning, up 74 points. So basically the jobs figures were OK, but don't necessarily signal the Fed should immediately taper. Music to traders' ears."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.