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The nation's unemployment rate held steady at 5.6 percent in September as a big jump in employment at firms supplying temporary workers offset widespread weakness in manufacturing.

The Labor Department said Friday that the overall unemployment rate last month remained stuck around the level it has been since May. Since peaking this year at 5.8 percent in April, the jobless rate has been either 5.6 percent or 5.7 percent for each of the past five months.In Utah, unemployment stood at 3.2 percent in September, a decline from the 3.4 percent in August and the third consecutive month of decline, according to Lecia Parks Langston, chief economist for the Utah Department of Unemployment Security.

She said the continuing unemployment decline should come as no surprise to employers along the Wasatch Front who are having difficulty in finding people to fill jobs. She said unemployment in Salt Lake and Utah counties is below 3 percent.

Langston said reports of labor shortages, particularly for low-wage jobs or skilled construction workers, are escalating. She said figures are beginning to show faster-than-average wage increases in such areas as retail trade, which have faced some of the most severe problems attracting workers.

Nationally, the number of payroll jobs rose by 121,000 last month, slightly below economists' expectations. Payroll jobs had increased 262,000 in August, but much of that strength came from earlier starting dates for schools.

Analysts said Friday's report reflected an economy that is growing at a modest level after nearly stalling out in the spring.

"The basic message is that the economy has rounded the corner and is back on a forward track," said Robert Dederick, economic consultant for the Northern Trust Co. in Chicago. "We have had our soft landing and we are now in a sedate recovery."

Dederick said Friday's report was unlikely to spur the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates any time soon. The central bank reduced rates by a quarter-point in July, the first decrease in nearly three years, but since that time has remained on the sidelines as evidence mounted that the economy was recovering from its earlier weakness.

"This report is telling the Fed that all is well. They have set the dials at what so far is precisely the right level," Dederick said.