Business, Finance & Economics

Unemployment in September drops below symbolic floor of 8 percent

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A man prepares a meal near a "help wanted" sign at a restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., last year. The unemployment rate made a surprisingly large drop in January. (Photo by Robert Galbraith/Reuters.)

The U.S. unemployment rate fell below the symbolic barrier of 8 percent in September, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, to 7.8 percent. 

No U.S. president has ever been re-elected with unemployment above 8 percent.

According to the labor report, the economy added some 114,000 jobs in September, with major additions in healthcare and transportation. In addition, the bureau raised employment figures for July and August by nearly 100,000 jobs, split almost evenly between the two months.

"The number of unemployed persons, at 12.1 million, decreased by 456,000 in September," the bureau said. "Total employment rose by 873,000 in September, following 3 months of little change."

In a break from previous months, government employee payrolls rose by 10,000. Previously, government payrolls had been a drag on private sector payroll growth.

"In 2012, employment growth has averaged 146,000 per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011," the bureau reported. "Manufacturing employment edged down in September (-16,000). On net, Manufacturing employment has been unchanged since April."

The last time U.S. unemployment was 7.8 percent or less was in March 2009. According to The New York Times, the unemployment rate dropped despite more people coming into the work force. Previous drops in unemployment had been largely attributed to people stopping their search for work.

This is the 24th straight month of the economy adding jobs — a figure that will no doubt be touted by President Barack Obama in the days and weeks ahead.

"Business leaders have been hanging back, though, more focused on global economic slowing and domestic concerns. They say they are uncertain what the election will mean for the business climate and are waiting in part for a resolution of the so-called fiscal cliff," the Times wrote.

Mitt Romney, Obama's presidential opponent, was out Friday morning with a statement critical of the pace of job growth.

"This is not what a real recovery looks like. We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we’ve lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office," Romney's statement said. "If not for all the people who have simply dropped out of the labor force, the real unemployment rate would be closer to 11 percent."

Romney has promised to add 12 million jobs if he's elected.

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