WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, reeling from a poor debate performance, won a valuable reprieve Friday with a reduced unemployment number in September that brought the jobless rate down to a level unseen since January, 2009 when he took office.
The new threshold carries more political than economic weight. The Labor Department reported that employers added 114,000 jobs in September, slightly better than expected but still below levels needed to sustain a reduction in unemployment.
The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month, dropping below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years. The rate declined because more people found work, a trend that could have an impact on undecided voters in the final month before the presidential election.
But the report held several good signs for Obama as he and rival Mitt Romney enter the final four weeks of the presidential campaign in an election dominated by the economy and high unemployment. The economy created 86,000 more jobs in July and August than initially estimated, a sign of the volatility of the jobless reports and their unreliability as a snapshot of the economy.