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U.S. employers added 142,000 jobs in August, significantly below economist projections of a gain of more than 200,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate fared better, ticking down to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent, which was in line with industry expectations.

The mediocre payroll number broke a six-month streak of monthly gains over 200,000 jobs that had offered the sense that the nation's job market was finally strengthening after years of tepid growth. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had predicted an August gain of 234,000 jobs.

The instant reaction on Twitter was surprise and disappointment.

And on CNBC, economist Mark Zandi voiced disbelief. "I don't believe it. I don't believe this data," Zandi said. "The underlying trend has not changed."

Zandi predicted the numbers would be revised in subsequent months. 

There were a few silver linings, however. The unemployment rate fell even as the labor force participation rate changed little, and average hourly earnings rose in August by six cents and were up 2.1 percent from a year ago. 

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