The unemployment rate dropped to 5.9% in September, marking the first time since 2008 that the rate has been below 6%. More people found work as the economy added 248,000 jobs, however, more people also stopped looking for work, pushing the labor force participation rate to a 36-year low of 62.7%. So far this year, the economy has added an average of 227,000 jobs per month.
According to the ADP employment report, private sector employment increased by 213,000 jobs in September, marking the sixth consecutive month of growth above 200,000. The gains were led by small business and service sector hiring.
On a less upbeat note, manufacturing in the US slowed in September, with Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index falling to 56.6% in September, following a three-year high of 59% in August.
In other less-than-great news, the pace of growth in the service sector also slowed to the lowest level in three months, a month after the ISM services index hit its highest level since January 2008.
Spending on construction projects fell in August to an annual rate of $961 billion. Weakness was noted in all sectors: private outlays for residential and non-residential projects fell, and government spending on construction projects also fell.
Contracts to purchase existing homes in the US declined slightly in August, the result of investors pulling back from the market as the inventory of cheap, distressed properties dries up. The data comes after news that existing home sales fell 1.8% to an annual pace of 5.05 million. The National Association of Realtors projects that 4.94 million existing homes will be sold this year.
The US trade deficit shrank to $40.1 billion in August, the lowest level since January, as the country exported a record amount of petroleum. The US exported $14.1 billion in petroleum products, and imported $27.2 billion – the lowest since 2010. As a result, the August petroleum deficit fell to a ten-year low.