U.S. unemployment rate falls, but signs cooling economy

America's jobless rate tumbled in September to its lowest level in 50 years, according to government data released Friday. But job creation pace is well-below average monthly growth last year, in what is likely to be interpreted as further evidence that the country is headed for a slowdown.

Unemployment fell two tenths to 3.5 percent, matching the rate last recorded in December 1969, and well below what analysts had forecast.

The U.S. Labor Department's closely watched monthly employment report, however, showed wage growth stagnating and manufacturing payrolls declining for the first time in six months. Average hourly wages fell by a penny to 28.09 U.S. dollars, well below economists' expectations, putting an end to a year-long string of steady gains.

The report came on the heels of a string of weak economic reports, including a plunge in manufacturing activity to more than a 10-year low in September and a sharp slowdown in services industry growth to levels last seen in 2016, that heightened fears the economy was flirting with a recession.

Employers added a total of 136,000 net new positions, which was below expectations, with notable slowdowns in education, government, finance and business services. The retail sector also continued to shed jobs.

The mining sector added no workers after three straight months of layoffs. The auto sector shed workers for the fourth straight month in a row. Manufacturing was down for the second time in 2019.

Still some groups continue to benefit from the tight labor market: Unemployment among Hispanics fell to its lowest level since records began in 1973.

And for workers without a high school diploma, the jobless rate fell to the lowest since records began in 1992.

The latest data did not reflect the nationwide strike launched last month by General Motors employees, who walked off the job the week after the survey for the September jobs report was conducted.

(With input from AFP, Reuters)