WASHINGTON (AP)— Drawn by steady hiring and slightly higher pay, more Americans began looking for work in September, a sign of renewed optimism about the U.S. job market.
The influx of job seekers sent the unemployment rate up slightly as more Americans were counted as unemployed. Taken as a whole, Friday’s jobs report from the government painted a picture of a resilient economy that could keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates in December.
Employers added 156,000 jobs, fewer than the 167,000 in August and well below last year’s average monthly gain of 230,000. Still, September’s hiring pace, if sustained, would likely be more than enough to absorb new job seekers.
At the same time, the unemployment rate inched up to 5 percent from 4.9 percent as more than 400,000 people began looking for jobs and some didn’t immediately find them. The rate has barely budged in the past year even though employers have added 2.4 million jobs. That’s because many Americans have begun seeking work after having remained on the sidelines for much of the economic recovery.
“The word has spread that there are jobs to be had, and more and more people are flocking to the job market,’’ said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at California State University’s Smith School of Business, said.