U.S. unemployment rate fell

The pace of US jobs growth picked up modestly last month while unemployment fell, handing George Bush a potential boost ahead of the presidential election on November 2. The US labour department said yesterday non-farm payrolls - among the most watched of US economic indicators - rose 144,000, about in line with economists' forecasts. Figures for the previous two months were revised up, from 32,000 to 73,000 for July and to 96,000 from 78,000 in June. The unemployment rate fell to 5.4% from 5.5% in July, the lowest in almost three years. The economy has been an important election battleground with Mr Bush facing the prospect of becoming the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs in a four-year term. He shrugged that off yesterday, saying the economy was "strong and getting stronger". Treasury secretary John Snow added: "The American economy continues to move in the right direction, expanding and growing and creating more good jobs. We are not satisfied but, boy, to see that unemployment rate march down is gratifying", informs Guardian Unlimited. According to the Globe and Mail, the U.S. economy added 144,000 jobs in August, dropping the unemployment rate to its lowest level in nearly two years and handing George W. Bush fresh ammunition to claim that life is getting better for Americans. Yesterday's release of the August employment report, combined with higher estimates for job creation in June and July, suggests the economy is back from an early summer dip, economists said. "After weathering a brief squall, the economy appears to be getting back on track," said Martin Regalia, chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "There are more jobs, more people working, a lower unemployment rate and a growing economy -- altogether not a bad report for Labour Day." The upbeat report also virtually assures that the U.S. Federal Reserve Board will raise its key interest rate another quarter percentage point to 1.75 per cent when it meets Sept. 21, several economists said. New jobs were created in nearly all key sectors of the economy, including services, manufacturing and construction, according to the U.S. Labour Department. Bounding out of the Republican National Convention with a daylong trip through four swing states, President Bush told a Pennsylvania audience Friday that "our economy is strong and getting stronger." He took particular cheer from a new set of August job statistics put out by the Labor Department that his rival, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, said proved that the president had failed to fix the economy. Kicking off separate Labor Day weekend campaign swings, the candidates argued from afar over the new employment statistics, which showed that the nation added 144,000 jobs in August. Bush noted that the new 5.4 percent unemployment rate -- down a notch from 5.5 percent in July -- is better than the average for each of the previous three decades. He didn't mention that, despite recent job gains, the economy is still almost 1 million jobs short of where it was when he took office. "Our growing economy is spreading prosperity and opportunity, and nothing will hold us back," he said. In contrast, Kerry cited the job numbers as evidence that Bush has led the country into an economic ditch. "President Bush is now certain to be the first president since the Great Depression to face re-election without creating a single job," Kerry said in a statement issued from Newark, Ohio. "If you believe lost jobs mean that America is heading in the right direction, you should support George Bush and his policies of failure." Bush was also buoyed by a poll showing him surging into a double-digit lead, reports Associated Press.

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