Crawling or stalling? That’s the question hanging over the U.S. economy amid fresh evidence the once-hot labor market is losing steam.

Nonfarm payrolls expanded by 136,000 in September, according to a Labor Department report Friday that missed the median estimate of economists. That brought the average gain this year to 161,000, compared with 223,000 throughout 2018. On top of that, average hourly earnings rose 2.9% from a year earlier, the weakest rate since mid-2018.

Yet the unemployment rate declined to a fresh half-century low of 3.5%, with the pace of hiring remaining above what’s needed to accommodate population growth. And pay for production and nonsupervisory workers held up better than the overall numbers.

© Bloomberg U.S. economy added 136,000 workers in September as jobless rate fell to 3.5%

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