The U.S. Labor Department reports that employment in the United States expanded last month, the first increase in eight months. The jobless rate held constant at 6.1 percent.
The U.S. economy created 5,700 jobs in September. However, the gain was not enough to reduce the unemployment rate, which has hovered in the six percent range for much of the past year. Financial markets greeted the report positively, as many leading economists had expected a further contraction in employment.
Elaine Chao, the U.S. labor secretary, hails the report as evidence that the pace of economic recovery is accelerating. "Jobless claims also fell last month. That is, they increased at a slower pace last month, and I think that is also positive. So, all these signs are boding good, further economic growth," she said.
The pace of economic growth has risen to over 3 percent, and most economists say the pick up has gained momentum in the last few weeks.
But the problem with the recovery from the 2001 recession is job creation. Usually, in a recovery, the economy produces new jobs at a rapid pace. However, that has not been the case in this recovery, as 2.6 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past two years.
The high unemployment rate has kept consumer confidence at relatively low levels. But many economists regard the September employment report as evidence that a turning point may have been reached. They predict a rapid pace of job creation during the remainder of the year.
The International Monetary Fund predicts U.S. economic growth of around three percent for all of 2003. The unemployment rate peaked at 6.4 percent in July. The economy has been stimulated by significant tax cuts, increases in government spending and a weaker dollar, which has brought relief to the hard-pressed export sector.