The U.S. economy added 142,000 jobs in August, and the unemployment rate edged down to 6.1 percent, the Labor Department said Friday.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent in August from July's 6.2 percent, largely because more people without jobs gave up looking for one and were no longer counted as unemployed.
The nonfarm payroll jobs added just 142,000 last month, below the market expectation of above 200,000. The seasonally adjusted August figure was a drop-off from the 12-month average of 212,000 added jobs and marked the smallest job gains in eight months.
July's gain was revised up slightly to an increase of 212,000 from the previous estimate of 209,000, while June's increase was revised down to 267,000 from the earlier estimate of 298,000.
In August, the number of long-term unemployed, or those jobless for 27 weeks or more, declined by 192,000 to 3 million, accounting for 31.2 percent of the unemployed.
The labor force participation rate was also slightly down to 62. 8 percent in August from July's 62.9 percent. The figure has been essentially unchanged since April. Average hourly earnings rose 0. 2 percent, in line with market expectations and up from July's 0.1 percent.
The August slowdown was largely attributed to drops in hiring in several industries. The biggest drop in hiring last month was seen in retail as retailers cut 8,400 jobs after gaining 21,000 in July. Transportation and warehousing added just 1,200 jobs after a robust gain of 19,100 in July.
Friday's report was closely watched by the market, as investors are looking for clues for monetary policy decisions by the Federal Reserve. Friday's data will likely ease concerns that the Fed may increase interest rates sooner than investors have expected, analysts say.
At the Fed's annual symposium in Jackson Hole in August, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the decline in the unemployment rate over this period somewhat overstates the improvement in overall labor market conditions, considering the substantially declined labor force participation rate, increasing part-time jobs and wage stagnation.
Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said Friday that the U.S. central bank should be in no hurry to lift interest rates given the significant slack in the U.S. labor market.
Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said that "although the pace of gains in August was below recent months, the broader trends are moving in the right direction."
The long-term unemployment rate has been but by more than half to 1.9 percent in August, Furman said in a statement released by the White House on Friday, adding that this is "an important sign of the progress that is being made."
But the long-term unemployment rate remains roughly double its pre-recession average, it added.
The U.S. economy expanded 4 percent in the second quarter, reversing an unexpected contraction in the first quarter due to severe winter weather.