*In order to be pleased with this past Friday’s employment report from the Labor Department, one has to be pleased with mediocrity. One month’s report does not constitute a trend but the figures released did give hope that the nation could avoid slipping back into recession. While the overall unemployment rate was the same – 9.1 percent – last month as it was in August, businesses created 103,000 new jobs – significantly more than had been expected.

The jobless rate did not improve because many people who had given up looking for work returned to the labor force in search of jobs. Thus, the September jobs report was an indication of the world’s most powerful economy performing at a mediocre level. For example, the economic rule of thumb is that the economy needs to create between 125,000 and 150,000 jobs a month in order to keep up with new people entering the work force. Thus, 103,000 new jobs looked good because it was much better than job creation in recent months.

Nevertheless, the report eased fears of a double-dip recession with one economist describing what was taking place as the economy “sort of muddling through” the troubling times.

While the unemployment rates for whites and Hispanics remained unchanged, the jobless picture for African Americans actually improved – although blacks remain more likely to be unemployed than any other major population group. In September, the black jobless rate stood at a still disturbing 16.0 percent – down from 16.7 percent in August.

The black jobless rate compares to rates of 8.0 percent for whites, 11.3 percent for Hispanics and 7.8 percent for Asian Americans. Overall, there were 14 million Americans looking for work last month and unable to find it. The Labor Department only counts a person as unemployed if they are actively looking for work.

The unemployment picture even improved for black males aged 25 and above. This group had been lagging behind virtually all other major segments of the workforce. Their joblessness dropped from 18.0 percent in August to 16.8 percent in September. (source: Taylor Media Services)