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By Alex Kowalski
WASHINGTON - The unemployment rate in the U.S. unexpectedly fell to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, as employers took on more part-time workers.
The economy added 114,000 workers last month after a revised 142,000 gain in August that was more than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 92 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an advance of 115,000. The jobless rate dropped from 8.1 percent and hourly earnings climbed more than forecast.
Stock futures and Treasury yields advanced as investors bet an improving job market will give workers with the wherewithal to boost their spending, helping cushion the economy from a global slowdown. Today’s employment report is the penultimate before the November elections as Obama and challenger Mitt Romney debate whose policies would best spur job growth.
“Things are improving, but it’s really a small down payment on a very big project we’ve got ahead,” James Glassman, senior economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, said on Bloomberg Radio. “Politically, it’s important news. It’s nice to see the unemployment rate coming down.”
The unemployment rate, derived from a survey of households, was forecast to rise to 8.2 percent, according to the survey median. Estimates ranged from 8 percent to 8.3 percent.
The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in December rose 0.5 percent to 1,462.5 at 9:01 a.m. in New York. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note climbed to 1.72 percent from 1.67 percent late yesterday.
The household survey showed an 873,000 increase in employment, the biggest since June 1983, excluding the annual Census population adjustments. Some 582,000 Americans took part- time positions because of slack business conditions or those jobs were the only work they could find.
Joblessness fell most among teenagers, declining to 23.7 percent last month from 24.6 percent.
Payrolls projections in the Bloomberg survey ranged from increases of 60,000 to 165,000 following an initially reported 96,000 gain in August. Revisions to July and August added a total of 86,000 jobs to payrolls in the previous two months.
Private payrolls, which exclude government agencies, rose by 104,000 in September. They were projected to advance by 130,000, the survey showed.
Factories eliminated 16,000 positions, compared with the survey forecast of no change and following a 22,000 decrease in the previous month.
Employment at private service-providers increased 114,000. Construction companies added 5,000 workers, and retailers hired 9,400 more employees.
Government payrolls increased by 10,000 after a 45,000 jump the month before.
Average hourly earnings climbed 0.3 percent to $23.58, today’s report showed.
The so-called underemployment rate -- which includes part- time workers who’d prefer a full-time position and people who want work but have given up looking -- held at 14.7 percent.
Economic issues play a central role in the race for commander-in-chief. Only one president, Ronald Reagan, has been re-elected since World War II with unemployment above 6 percent. On Election Day 1984, the rate was at 7.2 percent, having fallen almost three percentage points in the previous 18 months.