WASHINGTON (AP) - The jobs crisis isn't getting worse. But it isn't getting much better, either.
The economy added just enough jobs last month to ease fears of a new recession. But hiring is still too weak to bring down unemployment, which has been stuck around 9 percent for more than two years.
The nation added 103,000 jobs in September, an improvement from the month before, the Labor Department said Friday. But the total includes 45,000 Verizon workers who were rehired after going on strike and were counted as job gains.
Even setting aside that technicality, the job gains weren't enough to get the economy out of its soft patch. It takes about 125,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. For September, the unemployment rate stayed stuck at 9.1 percent.
"Well, the sky is not falling just yet," Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors, said in a note to clients. But there was nothing great about the report, he added. "It's incredible how low our sights have been set."
On one hand, the unemployment report was encouraging for economists. Some of them had feared the nation would lose jobs in September, raising the risk of a painful second recession.
But everyday Americans can't take much solace from it, either. The Great Recession has been over for almost two and a half years, and while corporate profits and the stock market have bounced back in that time, unemployment is still high.
There are 14 million people counted as unemployed in the United States. An additional 9.3 million are working part time and would rather work full time. And 2.5 million more have simply given up looking for a job.
The Labor Department said the economy added more jobs than first estimated in July and August. The government's first reading had said the economy added zero jobs in August.
While the report was clearly better than feared, it also showed the economy is not gaining much momentum, said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets.