The United States has added far fewer jobs than expected in September and hiring was weaker in the prior two months, the Labor Department says, pointing to a slowing economy.
The poor report on Friday (local time) gave a more downbeat picture of the labour market as the Federal Reserve considers its first interest rate hike in more than nine years, and suggested the economy was being impacted by concerns about China's economic slowdown that has roiled financial markets.
Job growth came in at 142,000 jobs in September, well below analyst estimates of 205,000.
The unemployment rate held unchanged at 5.1 percent, as expected, and the number of unemployed people also was little changed at 7.9 million.
The jobs numbers were revised lower for August, to 136,000, and for July, to 223,000, a combined 59,000 less than previously reported.
That brought the three-month average to a tepid 167,000 jobs a month, underlining an economy that is losing momentum.
There were other signs of continued weaknesses that the Fed views as signs of slack in the jobs market. The labour force participation rate, already extremely low, weakened further to 62.4 percent from the 62.6 percent of the prior three months.
Muted wage growth, an indicator of weak hiring demand, also slowed a bit. Average hourly earnings fell by one cent to US$25.09, following a gain of nine cents in August.
"Job growth clearly is fading and has been fading for some time," said Robert Brusca of FAO Economics.