The U.S. job-creating engine was slowing even before the 16-day government shutdown rippled through the economy, government data showed Tuesday
The Labor Department reported that U.S. employers added a lower-than-expected 148,000 jobs in September, while the jobless rate edged lower to 7.2 percent, from 7.3 percent. It was the lowest unemployment rate since November 2008.
Economists had expected a job count of around 180,000.
The report, which was delayed by the government shutdown, is the last set of jobs data this year unsullied by the shutdown. It will take until December's data, which will be released in January, to see "clean" data again.
The White House said Tuesday after the jobs data that the government shutdown would hurt the labor market in October. "There is no question that this brinkmanship is going to cost us a couple of tenths (of a percentage point) on our growth rate in the fourth quarter and a decent number of jobs in October," White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman told CNBC.
While the job count for August was revised to show more positions created than previously reported, employment gains in July were the weakest since June 2012.
A broader measure of unemployment that takes into account the underemployed and those who have quit looking for work also edged lower, to 13.6 percent.
The report likely will do little to move the needle on monetary policy.
Most market-watchers now expect the Federal Reserve to continue its $85 billion a month bond-buying program until well into 2014. Consensus sentiment is now that the central bank won't even start easing back on, or "tapering," the purchases until the spring.
CNBC's Jeff Cox and Reuters contributed to this report.