Jobless rate falls to 5.9 percent, lowest level in six years

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The unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent in September, its lowest point in six years, in the last jobs report before the midterm elections in November.

The economy added 248,000 jobs in September, as the market rebounded from a disappointing report in August.

The strong figures add to the sense that the economy has picked up steam this year, though it does not appear to have done much good for President Obama and congressional Democrats. 

Republicans have a good chance of retaking the Senate majority next month, in large part because of unhappiness with Obama's presidency, including of the economy. 

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Just 39 percent of voters approve of his handling of the economy, according to a YouGov poll reported by The Economist, while 56 percent disapprove.

Obama touted economic gains during a Thursday speech and said November’s midterm elections should be a referendum on the economy, which has picked up pace in recent months. 

He argued it is "indisputable that our economy is stronger today than it was when I took office," during a speech at Northwestern University. 

Obama also touted the importance of moving Democratic policies, such as raising the minimum wage, arguing "our broader economy has come a long way, but the gains of recovery aren’t yet broadly shared.”

The theme also showed up in Obama's interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" on Sunday, in which he argued the country was better off then six years ago, when he came to office during the financial crisis. 

The new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the unemployment rate falling below 6 percent for the first time since the recession. The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since July 2008. It was 6.1 percent in August. 

The report also showed higher than previously estimated job gains over the past two months, with August’s figure improving to 180,000 from 142,000, the report said.

September's 248,000 jobs gained were well above economists' expectations of about 215,000.

The report showed that the number of unemployed decreased by 329,000 to 9.3 million.
 
But 97,000 left the labor force, weighing on the participation rate, which ticked down one-tenth of a point to 62.7 percent, the lowest level since 1978. 
 
The labor market’s slack is expected to tighten through the next two years and could lead to shortage of workers, some economists forecast. 
 
Jason FurmanJason FurmanTelevision box plan skeptics ask FCC for more transparency Dems grasp for election lifeline Overnight Healthcare: Zika fight stalls government funding talks | Census finds big drop in uninsured | Mental health bill faces wait MORE, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said the nation's aging older population means participation rates aren’t likely to pop way up from where they are now.
 
“They are likely to be roughly stable around here for some time,” he said on CNBC.
 
Despite steady labor market growth of 220,000 jobs a month this year, wages remained stagnant — one reason many voters are not feeling better about the economy. 
 
“The only disappointment might be that average hourly earnings remain flat,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, said of the latest report.
 
Yet over the past 12 months, private employment has risen by 2.6 million.
 
And so far this year, the private sector has added nearly 2 million jobs, on pace for the strongest year of private-sector growth since 1998.

— This story was updated at 10:05 a.m.