US job growth moderated in September but remained solid, as a rush of hiring at bars and restaurants helped to offset payroll losses in the government and financial activities sector.
Employers added 263,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department said in its monthly payroll report released Friday, slightly topping the 250,000 jobs forecast by Refinitiv economists. It marks a deceleration from the 315,000 job gain recorded in August and matches the lowest monthly gain since April 2021.
The unemployment rate, meanwhile, unexpectedly dropped to 3.5%, returning to the historic low recorded in July as the size of the labor force decreased.
“The labor market continues to show signs of strength despite building economic pressures for businesses from higher costs and rising interest rates,” said Nationwide senior economist Ben Ayers. “Notable gains occurred in leisure and hospitality as well as health care – sectors that continue to right size from pandemic impacts.”
Although job earnings were broad-based last month, the leisure and hospitality sector – the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic – led the way in hiring, adding another 83,000 workers last month. Bars and restaurants accounted for the bulk of those gains, adding 60,000 workers in September. Hotels, meanwhile, saw payrolls grow by 6,700.
Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry still remains about 1.1 million – or 6.7% – below its pre-pandemic levels.
Health care accounted for the second-largest area of growth in September, with payrolls climbing by 60,100. The increases were widespread across the industry. Offices of physicians added 10,200 workers, and home health care services onboarded 10,600 employees. Nursing and residential care facilities rose by 4,500 workers.
The industry has returned to its February 2020 employment levels.
Another source of job creation in September was the professional and business services sector, which saw employment climb by 46,000. Within the industry, notable gains took place in administrative and support services (31,100), investigation and security services (9,400) and accounting and bookkeeping services (7,300).
Legal services actually shed 5,000 workers last month, the third consecutive month of declines.
Manufacturers also hired many new employees last month, with payrolls climbing by about 22,000. Most of those stemmed from durable goods factories, which saw employment jump by 16,000.
Employment in other industries, including construction (19,000), social assistance (15,300), information (13,000) and wholesale trade (11,300) also increased last month.
Those increases helped to make up for declines in government employment, which fell by 25,000 in September. The losses largely stemmed from a 21,700 decline in local government education, as well as a 7,100 decline in state government education.
Financial activities, meanwhile, shed 8,000 jobs while transportation and warehousing payrolls tumbled by 7,900.