WASHINGTON (AP) — The jobs crisis may be easing slightly on the strength of a fourth straight month of modest hiring and a dip in the unemployment rate.
Hiring slowed a bit in October. But the government said job growth was much stronger in August and September than first thought.
Average hourly earnings rose last month. And the unemployment rate ticked down to 9 percent from 9.1 percent, because more people said they found work last month. It was the first drop in the rate since July.
Still, the report suggests that President Barack Obama will likely face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any post-war president.
The Labor Department said the economy added 80,000 jobs in October. It was the fewest in four months and below September's revised total of 158,000. The government revised August and September's data to show 102,000 more jobs added.
Even so, October's modest job growth is barely enough to keep pace with population growth. About twice as many are needed to lower the unemployment rate. Many employers are hesitant to step up hiring until they see steady demand from consumers.
Healthier consumer spending was the key reason the economy expanded at an annual pace of 2.5 percent in the July-September quarter, the best quarterly growth in a year. Growth in consumer spending tripled from the spring, despite renewed recession fears and wide fluctuations in the stock market.
But economists worry that the summer spending gains can't be sustained. For one thing, Americans spent more in the third quarter even though they earned less. And they used their savings to make up the difference.
Without more jobs and higher wages, consumers are likely to pare spending in the months ahead. Consumer spending is important because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.
The economy generated an average of 130,000 jobs per month in the third quarter, up from 97,000 in the preceding three months. Still, that's down from 166,000 in the first three months of this year.
The biggest change was August. Initially, the government said employers added zero net jobs that month. It has since been revised twice to show 104,000 jobs added.