The Labor Department said Friday that 51,000 jobs were added in September, well below economists' expectation of roughly 123,000 jobs.

August's figure, however, was revised sharply upward to 188,000 jobs from the previously reported 128,000.

The unemployment rate, which was expected to have held steady, fell slightly to 4.6% from 4.7%.

Average hourly earnings, a key inflation metric, rose by a lower-than-expected 0.2%.

The jobs data, which come after a slew of choppy economic figures, help to strengthen the case for the

Federal Reserve

to continue to keep interest rates steady, or possibly even bring in a rate cut. But it also helps to support some arguments for a weakening economy.