September 2019 Jobs Report: Unemployment Rate Hits 50-Year Low

By Robert Half on October 4, 2019 at 7:21am

Employers added 136,000 jobs in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job gains have averaged nearly 161,000 per month in 2019, totaling more than 1.4 million new positions since the start of the year.  

According to the BLS, the following sectors contributed most to September’s job growth:

  • Education and health services: 40,000 jobs added
  • Professional and business services: 34,000 jobs added
  • Government: 22,000 jobs added
  • Leisure and hospitality: 21,000 jobs added
  • Transportation and warehousing: 15,700 jobs added

Unemployment rate dips to 3.5%

The unemployment rate in September was 3.5%, the lowest since December 1969. 

The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older also declined, to 2.0% in September. These professionals are in highest demand by employers. 

Other data from the BLS underscore the challenge that many employers face in the current environment, with low unemployment and a persistent lack of skilled talent available for hire. According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), there were 7.2 million job openings in July. 

What employers need to know

Hiring skilled talent can be a struggle in a labor market that is near full employment. But are jobs sitting open because you can’t find promising candidates … or because you’re holding out for the perfect hire?

It can be tempting to wait for a professional who checks all the boxes on your list of qualifications. However, waiting doesn’t guarantee you’ll find The One. 

In fact, not being flexible with your hiring criteria can be risky. You may end up overlooking strong hires who simply need a little training or extra onboarding to get up to speed. 

The only guarantee from holding out is that your job remains open even longer.

Consider working with a specialized staffing agency to help you cover more ground in this challenging labor market. A reputable agency can help you find the right full-time hire for your business faster by leveraging their deep network of talent. The firm can also connect you with contract or temporary professionals who can quickly step in to support your core team and keep work moving.

What job seekers need to know

It’s a job seeker’s market, to be sure. With this in mind, how selective should you be when weighing your employment options?

If a job offer isn’t completely what you hoped for — but it’s pretty darn close — should you accept it or keep looking? These questions can help you make a decision:

  • Are you particularly passionate about the company, job or work you’ll be doing?
  • What can you gain from this position that you can’t from another one? Can you learn skills or build experience more quickly or easily? Make import connections?
  • Would you have the chance to advance within the organization? How quickly?
  • How competitive is the compensation, perks and benefits package? Does it meet your needs?
  • Would you feel comfortable and able to excel within the employer’s organizational culture?

If, after answering those questions, you’re still on the fence, it might be best to continue your job search while the hiring market is hot (and if you can afford to do so). 

It all depends on your personal situation, of course. But take care not to be too particular or inflexible. Otherwise, you could end up passing on a great job opportunity.

An infographic summarizing the September 2019 jobs report and survey data from Robert Half


136,000 JOBS ADDED*




Unemployment Rate Unemployment Rate for College Grads
October '18 3.8% 2.0%
November '18 3.7% 2.2%
December '18 3.9% 2.1%
January '19 4.0% 2.4%
February '19 3.8% 2.2%
March '19 3.8% 2.0%
April '19 3.6% 2.1%
May '19 3.6% 2.1%
June '19 3.7% 2.1%
July '19 3.7% 2.2%
August '19 3.7% 2.1%
September '19 3.5% 2.0%

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

**College-degreed workers 25 and older

See what these results mean for job seekers and employers at


43% of workers plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months.

Source: Robert Half survey of more than 2.800 workers in the U.S.

© 2019 Robert Half. An Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/Disability/Veterans.

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