WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. unemployment rate dropped by 0.3 percentage point to 7.8 percent in September, marking the lowest level since January 2009, the Labor Department said Friday.
The figure fell below 8 percent for the first time in almost four years, which is generally better than the market expectation. For the first eight months, the rate hovered within a narrow range of 8.1 percent and 8.3 percent.
The economy added 114,000 nonfarm jobs last month, in line with the level economists had expected, according to the Labor Department report.
Businesses added 104,000 jobs across different sectors, while governments posted a gain of 10,000 jobs last month.
Health care added 44,000 jobs in September, and employment increased by 17,000 in transportation and warehousing over the month.
However, the manufacturing sector slashed 16,000 jobs, and employment in other major industries, including construction, wholesale and retail sales, showed little change over the month.
Total employment rose by 873,000 in September, following three months of little change. The number for the unemployed stood at 12.1 million, a decline of 456,000 from the previous month and the lowest level this year.
The labor force increased by 418,000 to 155.1 million, bringing the labor participation rate up from 63.5 percent in August to 63.6 percent in September.
The job growth in July and August was revised up by a total of 86,000 at the same time.
The sluggish labor market was a "grave concern" for the U.S. Federal Reserve to trigger the third round of quantitative easing. The eagerly-awaited September job report was one of the two before the election. With only a month to go until the election, a decline in jobless rate bodes well for incumbent President Barack Obama.
Official data showed the growth rate was only 1.3 percent at an annual rate in the April-June quarter, and few economists expect a significant improvement for the rest of the year.