Employers added 103,000 jobs in September, a modest burst of hiring after a sluggish summer. Still, job growth remains too weak to lower the unemployment rate, which stayed at 9.1 percent for the third straight month.
The Labor Department also said Friday that it has revised the previous two months to show that companies hired at a stronger pace than first estimated.
Employers have added an average of only 72,000 jobs in the past five months. The economy must create about twice as many consistently just to keep up with population growth.
Nearly half of the gains last month were due to the rehiring of 45,000 striking Verizon employees.
The private sector added 137,000 jobs in September, up sharply from August but below July's revised total. Government shed 34,000 jobs. Local governments cut teachers and other school employees.
Job gains occurred in construction, retail, temporary help services, and healthcare. Manufacturing cut jobs for the second straight month.
The department revised August's figures to show a gain of 57,000 jobs, up from a previous estimate of zero. July was revised up to 127,000 jobs, from 85,000.
More Americans are working part time but would prefer full-time work. When added to those out of work who have given up looking, the so-called "underemployment" rate rose to 16.5 percent from 16.2 percent.
The faltering economy has led many employers to reduce hiring. The economy grew at an annual rate of just 0.9 percent in the first six months of the year. Since then, Europe's debt crisis and stock market declines have heightened fears that the economy will struggle to grow enough to avoid a recession.
The economy desperately needs more hiring to boost the overall incomes of Americans, who would likely then spend more. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the economy.
It would require robust job growth to put the many long-term unemployed Americans back to work. Nearly 4.5 million people have been unemployed for more than year. That's equal to about one-third of the total unemployed — a record.
Slower hiring has put pressure on President Barack Obama little more than a year before the 2012 election.
On Thursday, Obama urged Congress to embrace his job-creation proposal, which he called an insurance plan against a return to recession. Obama said that without his nearly $450 billion package of tax cuts and public works spending, hiring and growth will be weaker. He said the bill could help prevent another downturn if Europe's debt crisis worsens.
Republicans have resisted Obama's plan, saying they oppose the higher taxes that he and other Democrats would use to pay for it.
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