NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The economy added 114,000 in September, down from 142,000 in August and not nearly enough to keep pace with population growth.
The unemployment rate decreased to 7.8% because the number of self-employed jumped dramatically. With the economy growing so slowly many of these are likely workers laid off during the economic collapse who have established home-based businesses.
In the weakest recovery since the Great Depression, nearly the entire reduction in unemployment from its 10% peak in October 2009 has been accomplished through a significant drop in the percentage of adults participating in the labor force -- either working or looking for work. Were the adult participation the same today, the unemployment rate would be 9.8%.
The most effective jobs program appears to be to convince working-aged adults they don't need a job.
Growth slowed to 1.3% in the second quarter, as consumers pulled back and the trade deficit on oil and with China continued to drag on demand. The outlook for the second half of the year is not much better. Car sales are stronger than a year ago, but are not likely to move up much further, and housing prices have risen in recent months but often on weak volumes.
The September jobs report indicates growth remains slow in the third quarter -- likely in the range of 2% or less.
Job gains were unevenly spread. Manufacturing and temporary help services lost 16,000 and 2,000 jobs, respectively, adding to concerns that the recovery is sputtering and a recession is eminent.
Gainers included retail trade, education and health care, leisure and hospitality, transportation and warehousing, financial services, and information and communications.
Construction gained 5,000 jobs, and federal, state and local governments added 10,000 jobs.
Gains in manufacturing production have not instigated additional improvements in employment largely, because so much of the growth is focused in high-value activity. Assembly work, outside the auto patch, remains handicapped by the exchange rate situation with the Chinese yuan.
Recent moves by China to further close its markets to stimulate its own flagging manufacturing indicate matters will get worse without a substantive response from Washington.