U.S. employers added just 142,000 jobs in August, snapping a six-month streak of hiring above 200,000 and posting the smallest gain in eight months.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent, the Labor Department said Friday. But the rate dropped because more people without jobs stopped looking for one and were no longer counted as unemployed.
Employers also added 28,000 fewer jobs in June and July than the government had previously estimated.
The weaker-than-expected figures make it unlikely that the Federal Reserve will speed up its timetable for raising interest rates. Most analysts expect the first rate hike around mid-2015.
August's job gains were far below the average monthly increase of 212,000 in the past 12 months. The slowdown was unexpected after most recent economic data had suggested that the economy was growing at a healthy pace.
Still, wage gains have been sluggish since the Great Recession ended in 2009, and consumers remain cautious. Consumer spending dipped in July, the first decline since January.
The biggest drops in hiring last month occurred in retail, which shed 8,400 jobs, after gaining 21,000 in July, and in manufacturing, where employment was flat, down from a gain of 28,000 in July. Transportation and warehousing added only 1,200 jobs, after adding 19,100 in July.