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US employers add 173K jobs in August, rate falls to 5.1 percent

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Credit: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Credit: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

WASHINGTON— The unemployment rate tumbled to a seven-year low in August as employers added a modest 173,000 jobs, complicating the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision whether to raise rates in two weeks.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent from 5.3 percent, the lowest since April 2008.

Hiring in August was the weakest in five months, but the government revised up the June and July figures by a combined 44,000 jobs. The economy generated 221,000 jobs a month from June through August, up from an average 189,000 in March through May.

Steady hiring could encourage the Fed to raise rates for the first time in a decade. Still, stock market turbulence, a persistently low inflation rate and a sharp slowdown in China could weigh on officials.