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Unemployment stuck at 9.6 percent

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Economists say at least 100,000 net new jobs must be created monthly to tread water and keep pace with growth in the labor market.

The nation shed 95,000 net jobs in September as financially strapped government entities axed workers and temporary census jobs ended, blunting the impact of still-weak private-sector hiring.

The Labor Department report released Friday -- the last to come before the November elections --also showed the national unemployment rate remained unchanged from August to September at 9.6 percent. The number of unemployed stood at roughly 14.8 million, also essentially unchanged from August.

The private sector added 64,000 jobs, which Economic Policy Institute economist Heidi Shierholz labeled "totally inadequate."

Economists say at least 100,000 net new jobs must be created each month just to tread water and keep pace with growth in the labor market.

Government employment fell by 159,000 and included 77,000 census jobs. Local governments cut 76,000 jobs last month, most of them teachers. That's the largest cut by local governments in 28 years.

Among other troubling news in the report, the number of people employed part-time for economic reasons rose by 612,000 to 9.5 million over the month. Over the last two months, that figure has grown by 943,000. The numbers represent people who were working part-time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

Meanwhile the average work week was unchanged at 34.2 hours. There has been no improvement in average hours since May, though average hours are up 1.5 percent from their low of 33.7 last fall, Shierholz said in a report.

Overall the numbers "indicate a slow trudge upward in the economy, not any great re-acceleration, no boom times," but "we're not falling back into the abyss either," Morningstar Inc. economist Robert Johnson said.

The construction industry shed 21,000 jobs, and manufacturing lost 6,000. Leisure and hospitality added 34,000 jobs. Professional and business services added 28,000 jobs, and health care added 24,000.

"The labor market remains far too weak to raise confidence among consumers, lift spending and in turn spur businesses to step up hiring," Sophia Koropeckyj, an economist at Moody's Analytics, wrote in a note to clients.

The unemployment rate for blacks remained high but edged down to 16.1 percent from 16.3 percent. The rate for Asians fell to 6.4 percent from 7.2 percent, while the rate for whites was unchanged at 8.7 percent. Among Hispanics, the rate rose to 12.4 percent from 12 percent.

"We have to keep doing everything we can to accelerate this recovery," President Obama said after the report was released. "The only piece of economic news that folks still looking for work want to hear is, 'You're hired.' And everything we do is dedicated to make that happen."

Contributing: AP