WASHINGTON – The U.S. economy lost jobs in October for the second month in a row and the unemployment rate inched up to 5.7 percent, the government said on Friday in the latest indication the recovery may be stalling out.
The data may heighten expectations the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at its policy meeting next Wednesday.
The Labor Department said the number of workers on nonfarm payrolls fell by 5,000 last month in October, a slightly worse showing than the 7,000 gain projected by economists in a Reuters survey.
"It is confirming the job market weakened as we went into the autumn, but maybe not as much as we expected," said Patrick Fearon, economist at A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc. in St. Louis.
Labor revised up the payroll numbers for the previous two months. It reported a job loss of 13,000 in September versus a previously reported 43,000 drop, and it said August payrolls climbed 123,000 compared to the previously reported 107,000 rise.
The jobless rate rose a tenth of a percentage point from September's 5.6 percent. The rate is tallied from a separate survey than the payroll data and has tended in recent months to paint a slightly more optimistic picture of labor-market trends than payroll series.
Within the payroll report, some forward-looking indicators of the labor market were down, including the average length of the workweek. That fell to 34.1 hours in October from September's 34.2.
The factory workweek decreased to 40.7 hours from 40.9 hours.
Average hourly earnings rose a mild 0.2 percent in October to $14.89 after an identical 0.2 percent rise in the prior month.
"Employment in manufacturing continued to trend down as the nation's factories shed 49,000 jobs," said Kathleen Utgoff, commissioner of the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. She noted that the decline in factory jobs, which began more than two years ago, accelerated in the last three months after softer declines in the spring.