The nation's unemployment rate dipped to 7.3 percent in August from 7.4 percent in July, according to the Labor Department's monthly jobs report, which was released Friday. Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report for NY1.
The U.S. economy added 169,000 jobs last month, an improvement over July's report but still falling just short of economists' expectations.
Newly minted Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, sworn into office on Wednesday, put a positive spin on the numbers.
"The economy continues to grow in a slow and steady pace," Perez said. "Over the last year, 2.3 million jobs have been created. Forty-two consecutive months of private-sector job growth, to the tune of 7.5 million jobs."
The unemployment rate fell largely because more than 300,000 people stopped looking for work. The number of Americans who participate in the labor force is now at its lowest rate since August 1978.
"We have to pick up the pace," Perez said. "The president would be the first to say that we have to pick up the pace. And that is why, that's what his better bargain for the middle class does, investing in infrastructure, roads, investing in human capital, making sure our classrooms don't have 40 students per teacher."
Much of last month's hiring was in low-paying retail and food service work. Restaurants and bars added 21,000 jobs. Retailers added 44,000 jobs. It's cause for concern about the quality of the new jobs being created.
Perez said that the economic recovery is broad-based.
"If you look at professional services, it's moving in a very good direction," he said. "If you look at the health sector, that's moving in a very good direction."
Many economists have said that a strong August jobs report would have allowed the Federal Reserve to ease its economic stimulus program, but these numbers are likely giving policy makers second thoughts.