The U.S. economy unexpectedly shed jobs in September for a fourth straight month as government payrolls fell and private hiring was less than expected, hardening expectations of further Federal Reserve action to spur the recovery.
Nonfarm payrolls dropped 95,000, the Labor Department said on Friday. Private employment, a better gauge of labor market health, increased 64,000 after rising 93,000 in August. A total of 77,000 temporary jobs for the decennial census were terminated last month.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected overall payrolls would be unchanged, with private-sector hiring gaining 75,000.
The government revised data for July and August to show 15,000 more jobs lost that previously reported. It also said its preliminary benchmark revision estimate indicated employment in the 12 months to March had been overstated by 366,000.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.6 percent in August. In the wake of dovish speeches by senior Fed officials, including Chairman Ben Bernanke, analysts believe it now almost certain the U.S. central bank will launch a second round of asset purchases—with any expecting a move in November.
"They may delay it till December, but the odds favor we get something,'' said Michael Strauss chief economist at Commonfund in Wilton, Connecticut.
Expectations the Fed, which has already pumped $1.7 trillion into the economy by buying mortgage-related and government bonds, would announce a second phase of quantitative easing at its Nov. 2-3 meeting have buoyed U.S. stocks and prices for shorter-dated government debt and have undercut the dollar.
The employment report is last before the Nov. 2 mid-term elections in which President Barack Obama's Democratic Party is expected to suffer large losses amid voter dissatisfaction with the economy.
Opinion polls suggest Republicans will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, which may give them a platform to pursue their agenda of restricting government spending to reduce a record budget deficit.
The recovery from the longest and deepest downturn since the 1930s has been slow to generate jobs. Private hiring last month was held back by the goods-producing industries, where payrolls contracted 22,000 as manufacturing employment fell 6,000 after declining 28,000 in August.
Construction payrolls fell 21,000, reflecting the lasting troubles in the housing market, after August's boost from the return of striking workers.
Private services sector employment rose 86,000 after increasing 83,000 in August. Temporary help services—seen as a harbinger of permanent hiring—increased 16,900 last month after rising 17,700 in August.
"Job growth in the goods producing industries has been bottoming out. What we need to see, to get a really positive feed back loop in the economy, is the services sector start to edge up,'' said Troy Davig, senior U.S. economist at Barclays Capital in New York.
The end of temporary census jobs and the loss of 76,000 local government jobs pushed total government payrolls down 159,000 last month.
The length of the average workweek was unchanged at 34.2 hours for a third straight month.