President Joe Biden struck a positive tone on lackluster U.S. job creation numbers Friday, saying a drop in unemployment represented a "significant improvement" from when he took office.
"Jobs up, wages up, unemployment down. That's progress," Biden said, noting that the American economy continues to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the number of new jobs reported was far lower than expected.
The Labor Department said the U.S. economy added just 194,000 jobs in September. Forecasters had predicted 500,000 new jobs would be added.
It was the second month of tepid job numbers, and some economists attributed the trend to the effects of the COVID-19 virus delta variant.
Unemployment fell from 5.2% in August to 4.8% in September, but those figures only measure people who are actively looking for work.
The September jobs report found that those in the labor force — defined as individuals over age 16 who have a job or are actively looking for one — fell from 61.7% to 61.6%. Before the pandemic, the labor participation rate was 63.3%.
Job gains in August were revised upward from 235,000 to 366,000.
Some sectors, including hospitality, professional business services, retail, and transportation and warehousing saw job gains last month.
Forecasters had predicted a more robust jobs number in nonfarm sectors because of schools reopening, many federal unemployment benefits ending, and an uptick in the number of Americans getting vaccines.
"This is quite a deflating report," said Nick Bunker, economic research director at job placement site Indeed in an interview with CNBC. "This year has been one of false dawns for the labor market. Demand for workers is strong, and millions of people want to return to work, but employment growth has yet to find its footing."
While Biden stressed the positive, congressional Republicans blasted the administration’s economic performance.
"Over 300,000 FEWER jobs created than expected in September — further proof Biden's economic policies are hurting our country," tweeted Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found that 55% of the Americans surveyed disapproved of Biden's handling of the economy.
Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press.