NEW YORK (CNNfn) - The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9 percent in September, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday, held in check by returning United Parcel Service workers.
The news sparked an immediate bond rally on Wall Street, with the benchmark 30-year Treasury bond leaping 1-8/32 at the announcement, whipping the yield back down to 6.20 percent.
The number of non-farm workers added to payrolls increased a mild 215,000 in September, up 40,000 from August. About 162,000 of those were UPS workers getting back on the job after a labor strike that began in August.
The weaker figures also might represent a shortage of workers rather than a lack of growth for the economy, said Maureen Allyn, chief economist at Scudder, Stevens & Clark.
"Employers are reluctant to hire people who can't do the job they want and they're reluctant to pay more," said Allyn.
She pointed to the slight increase in average hourly earnings, which rose to $12.34 from $12.30 the previous month, as evidence of that.
The monthly survey of employment statistics is one of the broadest measurements the government has to gauge economic activity. Wage pressures are a chief indicator the Federal Reserve looks at for signs of inflation.
The average workweek shortened slightly last month, dropping to 34.5 hours from 34.6 hours in August.
While the returning UPS workers provided a boost to transportation employment, other sectors fell off, including construction jobs, down 1,000 last month. Government positions were down 78,000.
Other areas had a strong month. Retail employment positions climbed 23,000 in September. Overall, service-producing jobs rose 229,000 while goods-producing jobs were down 14,000.
Workers also became more reluctant to leave their jobs as the number of people voluntarily quitting their positions fell to 12.9 percent from 13.7 percent.
-- Randy Schultz