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Obama Plays Off Positive Jobs Report But Voters May Not Buy It


The stock market rallied today after a better than expected jobs report. According to the Labor Department, U.S. employers added nearly a quarter-million jobs in September. The unemployment rate fell to a six-year low. At a steal plant in Indiana this afternoon, President Obama's celebrated that economic progress.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is real, and it is steady, and it is happening. And it's making a difference in economies all across the country.

BLOCK: Still, while the pace of hiring has picked up, many workers aren't seeing signs of economic recovery in their paychecks. NPR's Scott Horsley begins our coverage.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The solid job gains in September come as a relief after a lackluster employment report the previous month. The August jobs number was also revised upwards, suggesting any slow-down in hiring was a temporary blip. White House economist Jason Furman notes at this rate, the economy's on track to record its best year of private sector job growth since the late 1990s. What's more - the unemployment rate in September dipped to 5.9 percent.

JASON FURMAN: If you had asked me a year ago, two years ago, I didn't think I'd see an unemployment rate with a five in front of it during the Obama administration.

HORSLEY: The drop in the unemployment rate over the last year is the second fastest in three decades. While some of that decline is the result of some Americans leaving the workforce, broader measures of the unemployment that include those discouraged workers and people working less than they'd like to have also shown steady improvement.

With more than 9 million people still looking for work, though, there's a lot of slack left in the labor market and not much pressure for employers to raise wages. Average hourly earnings barely budged in September. Over the last year, wages have increased just a little bit faster than inflation.

FURMAN: The biggest economic challenge we face is raising living standards for typical American families. We're not seen the wage growth that we would like to see.

HORSLEY: That may explain why more than half of all Americans disapprove the President's handling of the economy. Republicans see an opening there to make gains in next month's midterm elections. GOP Chairman Reince Priebus argues the job market would improve faster with less government spending and fewer regulations.

REINCE PRIEBUS: Regulations come between you and a job. They make your paychecks smaller. It's one thing to protect consumers. That's important. But it's another thing to protect special interests.

HORSLEY: Today, the president announced a new competition for a center to promote manufacturing. Manufacturing jobs traditionally pay higher than average wages. Since bottoming out four years ago, the U.S. has added some 700,000 manufacturing jobs, though factory hiring in September was flat. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.