With 8 Years of Job Gains, Unemployment Is Lowest Since 1969 Image

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The unemployment rate fell to a nearly five-decade low in September, punctuating a remarkable rebound in the 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers set off a global financial crisis.

By almost any measure, the American economy is humming. Gross domestic product is on pace for its best year since the housing bubble of the mid-2000s. Consumers and businesses are the most confident they have been in years, if not decades. Stock market indexes are near record highs.

The latest milestone came in a Friday report from the Labor Department: The unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent last month, the lowest since December 1969, when hundreds of thousands of working-age Americans were serving in Vietnam.

“I view this as the strongest labor market in a generation,” said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at the career site Glassdoor. “These really are the good times.”

The turnaround from a decade ago is hard to overstate. In September 2008, American employers cut 443,000 jobs as the financial system collapsed around them. More than seven million more jobs evaporated in the months that followed. Even when the hemorrhaging stopped, shellshocked executives were slow to bring back laid-off workers, sparking fears of a “jobless recovery.”

But when the hiring engine finally kicked back into gear, it did so in historic fashion. The 134,000 jobs added in September made it the 96th consecutive month of growth — eight full years, double the previous record. Employers have added close to 20 million jobs during that streak. (September’s growth, a modest slowdown from August, would probably have been stronger absent the effects of Hurricane Florence, which struck the Carolinas in the middle of the month.)

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