First-time jobless claims down 3,000

Unemployment and the condition of the economy remain a central theme in the presidential election and are weighing heavily on President Obama's reelection efforts. 

This weeks figure is above the 375,000 that economists argue reflects a healthier job market and a hiring pace by employers that is fast enough to bring down the unemployment rate, which now sits at 8.1 percent.  

In August, businesses only added 96,000 jobs as the manufacturing sector shed 15,000 positions. The sector, which has led the economic recovery, has contracted in the past three months as the economic slowdown in Asia and the financial crisis in Europe hold back demand.