Your Headline August Jobs Number: 169,000

Unemployment falls to lowest since December 2008

A recruiter waits to meet with job seekers at a career fair, in King of Prussia, Pa., June 24, 2013. (National Journal)

The U.S. economy added 169,000 jobs in August as the unemployment rate ticked down slightly to 7.3 percent, federal economists reported Friday.

The unemployment rate, which sat at 7.4 percent last month and 8.1 percent a year ago, was the lowest of President Obama's administration and the lowest rate since December 2008. Despite the drop, 11.3 million people remain unemployed.

The job report is unlikely to land with much effect on Congress, where members are focused on the situation in Syria ahead of a difficult vote on President Obama's request for authorization of a military strike. And even before the focus shifted to Syria, prospects for action on the economy were dim — with Democrats and Republicans locked in a legislative stalemate.

But the number will be watched closely at the Federal Reserve Board , where Chairman Ben Bernanke is pondering when to wind down the bank's monetary efforts to stimulate economic growth.

Bernanke has said that one pillar of the bank's stimulus effort, the historically low lending rate to banks, will likely remain in place until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent, provided inflation remains at the Fed's target levels.

The other major components of the Fed's stimulus effort — monthly, multibillion-dollar bond buys, known as "quantitative easing" — could end much sooner, as Fed officials have said they will begin winding down the program when they are confident of continued economic growth.

The Labor Department also revised its initial July job-growth estimate from 162,000 to 104,000, and revised its June job-growth estimate from a second estimate of 188,000 to a final calculation of 172,000. That's a total downward revision of 74,000 jobs.

The jobs number is based on a survey of employer payrolls and has a margin of error of about plus-or-minus 100,000. The unemployment rate, which is based on a survey of households, has a margin of error of about 0.2 percent.

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