The U.S. economy added 128,000 jobs in August, right in line with the number that had been expected, and the nation's unemployment rate ticked lower.

A report Friday from the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the jobless rate fell to 4.7% from 4.8% in July. On average, economic forecasters had been looking for an addition of 125,000 jobs and a 4.7% unemployment rate.

Average hourly earnings rose by 0.1%, less than the expected 0.3%. The report bolsters the case that the

Federal Reserve

can again leave short-term interest rates unchanged when policymakers meet in about three weeks.

Last month, the Fed kept its target fed funds rate at 5.25%, the first time in more than two years it had met without hiking rates. Starting with the June 2004 meeting, the central bank had raised rates by a quarter point 17 straight times, in the process lifting the overnight bank lending rate by 425 basis points from 1%.

July's nonfarm payroll growth was revised upward to 121,000 new jobs from the 113,000 originally reported.