Sept. Jobs Report to Show Economic Health

The government is due to release monthly job numbers, an indicator that gives a glimpse of where the economy is headed. The last jobs report was a bit of a shock: employment actually fell for the first time in four years, which sent the stock market plunging.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

NPR's business news starts with the waiting for the next job report.

We may get a better idea where the economy is going later this morning when the government releases monthly job numbers. This is one of the most important economic indicators. And the last jobs report was a little bit of a shock. Employment actually fell for the first time in four years, and that news sent the stock market plunging.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.

FRANK LANGFITT: Brian Bethune watches the economy for Global Insight, a financial analysis firm.

Dr. BRIAN BETHUNE (Global Insight): There's a lot of angst that's been built up surrounding this Friday report.

LANGFITT: Like other economists, Bethune is hoping and predicting that jobs rebounded last month. Specifically, analysts think employment grew by at least 90,000 jobs. If they're right, that might calm worries of a recession. One of the things that dragged jobs down in August was huge losses in manufacturing, but Bethune expects improvement there. He says companies are adding jobs to replace outdated technology.

Dr. BETHUNE: Part of that is related to the investments that were made at the end of the '90s in preparation for the Y2K, and now that equipment is definitely aging, and some of it will be replaced.

LANGFITT: Job growth could also get a little help from manufacturers who export - the falling value of the dollars making their products cheaper overseas.

Sandy Westlund-Deenihan runs Quality Float Works. It's an Illinois firm that makes industrial valve systems. She says a weakening dollar has helped her export to Germany and Singapore this year and add staff.

Ms. SANDY WESTLUND-DEENIHAN (President, Quality Float Works, Inc.): Right now we're exploring Poland because they're working on their infrastructure.

LANGFITT: But other factors could overwhelm those job gains. They include the continued housing slump and mass layoffs in mortgage lending.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.

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