U.S. hiring slowed sharply in September as both the manufacturing and oil and gas sectors shed jobs.
The Labour Department reported Friday that employers added 142,000 jobs in September, well below the 200,000 economists had been expecting.
U.S. unemployment remained at 5.1 per cent, but the percentage of Americans in the workforce slipped as the number of people looking for work declined. Labour force participation is at a 48-year low of 62.4 per cent, in part reflecting an aging workforce.
More than 26 per cent of workers on the unemployment roles — about 2.1 million people — have been out of work for more than 27 weeks.
The Labour Department also revised downward its already disappointing jobs numbers for July and August. It estimated 136,000 jobs were created in August and 223,000 in July.
The figures reflect the broad slowdown in the global economy, the result of reduced demand for goods from China.
A high U.S. dollar has made American goods less competitive, reducing exports. Low oil prices because of oversupply have led to significant slowdowns in U.S. drilling.
Average hourly wages also slipped by a penny to $25.09 an hour and have risen a tepid 2.2 per cent in the past year.
Employment rose in health care, information and retail sectos, reflecting the continued spending by U.S. consumers that is helping power the U.S. economy.
When will Fed move on rates?
U.S. labour figures are closely watched because they are among the data the U.S. Federal Reserve considers when determining when to raise interest rates.
Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at RBC Economics, said whether the Fed moves to hike rates this year may depend on a return to stability in global financial markets.
"Indications of slowing employment growth would provide a reason for the Fed to stay on the sidelines; however, to the extent that this reflects labour markets moving toward full capacity, the argument to tighten becomes stronger," Ferley said in a note to investors.
The current unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent is within the Fed's target range, he said, and may be close to what it sees as full employment.
There is some underlying evidence of labour market gains despite the disappointing wage growth, Ferley said, including more people working full time and who want full-time work.
Slowdown could last
James Marple, senior economist at TD Economics, pointed to the aging workforce, which could result in a decrease in the participation rate.
But he warned those same factors could mean an overall slowing of the U.S. economy and job growth.
"We're getting to the point where demographic pressures are beginning to impinge on job growth. Near-term weakness may stall rate hikes for a few meetings, but it will not delay them indefinitely," Marple said in a note to investors.
He said the impact of the global slowdown "does not appear to be a one-month blip" as it has spread from export-producing sectors such as manufacturing to also affect transportation, warehousing and professional business services.