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Jobless Rate Stays Stuck at 9.1 Percent Despite Uptick in Hiring

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In this Oct. 4 photo, prospective employees and vendors attend a job fair in San Antonio, Texas. (AP)

The nation's unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.1 percent in September despite an uptick in hiring, as the latest labor report fueled debate in Washington over how to jump-start an economy that President Obama acknowledges has weakened since the start of the year. 

The Labor Department said Friday employers added 130,000 jobs in September. Nearly half of those gains, though, were due to the rehiring of 45,000 Verizon employees who had gone on strike. 

The hiring did little to draw down the number of unemployed in America, estimated at about 14 million. Since April, the jobless rate has hovered between 9 and 9.2 percent. 

The report quickly was pulled into the debate on Capitol Hill over whether to pursue Obama's $447 billion jobs bill -- a mix of tax relief, infrastructure spending and other measures -- or pursue a different route. 

House Speaker John Boehner said the "sad numbers" show the federal government cannot keep pursuing policies of "more Washington spending, threats of higher taxes on small businesses, and excessive government regulations." 

He urged both sides to find "common ground on common-sense solutions." 

"The fact that our unemployment rate remains this high -- over two and a half years after Democrats' trillion-dollar stimulus plan -- is a clear signal that we need to change course," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. 

But House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi put the blame on majority Republicans for not following up the stimulus plan with a "clear jobs agenda."  

"It's time for Republicans to get off the sidelines and take up President Obama's American Jobs Act -- to put people to work rebuilding America, strengthen small businesses so they can grow and hire, and keep teachers, police officers, and firefighters on the job," she said in a statement. "Americans are waiting; Democrats have been prepared to act; and Republicans must join us to create jobs now."

Katherine Abraham, a member of the president's Council of Economic Advisors, also said on the White House blog that the report "underscores the president's call for Congress to pass the American Jobs Act." 

Obama, in a press conference Thursday, said he's gone out of his way to work with Republicans without much success. He said he's open to revisions of his jobs bill, but said Republican proposals to strip regulations are not going to do the trick considering the state of the economy. 

In a blunt assessment, Obama said that state is worse now than it was at the start of 2011. He described his jobs package as a buffer for America against worsening economic conditions in Europe, and said lawmakers "know" it will help turn things around. 

In September, the private sector added 137,000 jobs, up sharply from August but below July's revised total. Government shed 34,000 jobs. Local governments cut teachers and other school employees. 

Job gains occurred in construction, retail, temporary help services and health care. Manufacturing cut jobs for the second straight month. 

The department revised August's figures to show a gain of 57,000 jobs, up from a previous estimate of zero. July was revised up to 127,000 jobs, from 85,000. 

More Americans are working part time but would prefer full-time work. When added to those out of work who have given up looking, the so-called "underemployment" rate rose to 16.5 percent from 16.2 percent. 

The faltering economy has led many employers to reduce hiring. The economy grew at an annual rate of just 0.9 percent in the first six months of the year. Since then, Europe's debt crisis and stock market declines have heightened fears that the economy will struggle to grow enough to avoid a recession. 

The economy desperately needs more hiring to boost the overall incomes of Americans, who would likely then spend more. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the economy. 

It would require robust job growth to put the many long-term unemployed Americans back to work. Nearly 4.5 million people have been unemployed for more than year. That's equal to about one-third of the total unemployed -- a record. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.