Jobless Rate Unchanged In Last Report Before Midterms

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The Labor Department on Friday said U.S. employers cut 95,000 jobs in September, leaving the jobless rate unchanged at 9.6 percent. It's the fourth straight month that the economy has shed jobs.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The Labor Department says employers cut 95,000 jobs from their payrolls last month, though the overall unemployment rate for the nation as a whole stayed at 9.6 percent. That's the news in this morning's unemployment report, the last before next month's election. To help put this in perspective, we turn now to NPR's Jim Zarroli in New York.

Good morning.

JIM ZARROLI: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: This is a pretty big drop. Doesn't sound very good, obviously. Where were the job losses last month?

ZARROLI: Well, this was pretty much because of a big decline in government workers. You know we've had this continuing expiration of temporary Census worker jobs. We lost 77,000 there. And then we lost another 76,000 local government worker's jobs. At this point in the recovery, you know, a lot of cities and towns have just run out of money. They're laying off workers. And that's what you're seeing.

MONTAGNE: What about jobs that aren't government jobs? What about the private sector, an increase there, as well, in unemployment?

ZARROLI: Yeah, and if you want to find something encouraging in the report, that's what you would look at. The private sector gained 64,000 jobs, but the gains are still pretty modest. And that's, you know, consistent with what we've been seeing this year; which is, you know, some private sector job growth, but not enough to keep pace with the population growth as a whole not a really enough to make any kind of dent at all in the huge unemployment problem. We had 14.8 million people looking for work in September, and actually, the unemployment rate would be a lot higher if you include all those people who are working fewer hours than they'd like, and all those people who've grown so discouraged that that they don't even bother looking any more.

MONTAGNE: Okay, so job losses in the public sector that is government jobs. Gains small ones in the private sector. As I said, this is the last unemployment report before the midterm election, should this affect how people vote?

ZARROLI: I don't think so. There's just a lot of pessimism about the economy. You know, even voters who don't necessarily blame the Democrats for the recession, think they just haven't seen enough progress under their watch. And there's really nothing under this in this report that's going to make them feel any more hopeful.

MONTAGNE: Joe, let's talk about the connection between joblessness and the stock market. The stock market is hovering around 11,000, it's doing well-ish. What are investors seeing that makes them more optimistic?

ZARROLI: Yeah, I think the - what you've seen there is a lot of a lot of companies have figured out ways to cut costs, so they're doing pretty well, and they're the survivors. I think a lot of economists will tell you that this is just part of the process of recovering from a recession. You know, they're the ones who are going to be in a good position to, sort of, take off when the economy really rebounds. And I think a lot of investors are out there looking for the stocks that are going to benefit; because that's how you make money in the stock market. You get you find stocks before they're they go up, and you buy them.

MONTAGNE: And then weve been hearing for weeks now that the Federal Reserve will take some action to stimulate the economy. What do you think the Fed officials will do in light of this report?

ZARROLI: Well, they have been leaning toward quantitative easing. In other words, that means going out into the public markets and buying up treasury bills, maybe some other kind of securities. It's kind of a way of pumping money into the system. The Fed has been doing this for some time, but if it wants, it can do more. Now the problem is that some members of the Fed are opposed to this, so there's really no consensus about what to do next. But as the months drag on, the Fed is really under pressure to do something; and what we call quantitative easing is really one of the few one of the last tools in their toolbox.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Jim Zarroli, thanks very much.

ZARROLI: Youre welcome.

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