BLS Employment Situation Report: September 2011

According to the Labor Department, total employment growth beat economists' estimates in September, rising by 103,000 positions overall and 137,000 in the private sector. The public sector cut 34,000 positions, mostly from local education. The unemployment rate in September stayed flat at 9.1 percent. Job growth in August has been revised up from an initially-reported zero to a gain of 57,000 positions.

Of the private sector gains in September, 37,000 positions came from the telecommunications sector, which recorded a loss of 47,300 the month before as a result of a work stoppage at Verizon Communications' landline division. Since the return of these positions had already been known to be a near certainty by economists, the gains in excess of the projections become even more dramatic.

The four-year degree unemployment rate fell from 4.5 percent a year ago and 4.3 percent in August to 4.2 percent in September. The management, professional, and related occupations unemployment rate remained flat year-over-year at 4.4 percent.

Outside of telecommunications, a few sectors saw meaningful levels of growth. Commercial construction saw a jump as nonresidential building construction added 13,200 positions and nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 10,700 jobs. Additionally, heavy and civil engineering construction added 6,200 jobs for a net growth in the construction industry of 26,000 positions.

A variety of retailers saw modest employment gains, including food and beverage, health and personal care, and general merchandise stores. In total, retail trade added 13,600 positions, a relatively small gain on its 14.5 million workers, though the types of stores that are seeing gains is telling. The rate of hiring of temporary and contract labor also increased, adding 19,400 positions in September.

September's numbers may be tepid, but they are an improvement over the general mood during much of September. They indicate an economy where companies are investing in construction and retailers of non-durable consumer goods are seeing reasons to add staff.