U.S. jobs growth rises moderately; unemployment rate falls to 3.5 percent

* Nonfarm payrolls increase 136,000 in September

* August payrolls revised up to 168,000 from 130,000

* Unemployment rate falls to 3.5% from 3.7% in August

* Average hourly earnings unchanged

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - U.S. job growth increased moderately in September, with the unemployment rate dropping to near a 50-year low of 3.5%, which could assuage financial market concerns that the slowing economy was on the brink of a recession amid lingering trade tensions.

The Labor Department's closely watched monthly employment report on Friday, however, showed monthly wage growth was unchanged and manufacturing payrolls declined for the first time in six months, and the retail sector continued to shed jobs.

The report came on the heels of a string of weak economic reports, including a plunge in manufacturing activity to more than a 10-year low in September and a sharp slowdown in services industry growth to levels last seen in 2016.

With signs that the Trump administration's 15-month trade war with China is spilling over to the broader economy, continued labor market strength is a critical buffer against an economic downturn. The U.S.-China trade war has eroded business confidence, sinking investment and manufacturing. 

RELATED: Take a look at the best jobs of 2019, according to U.S. News: 

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25 best jobs of 2019, according to U.S. News
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25 best jobs of 2019, according to U.S. News

25. Financial Manager

Industry: Business 
Median Salary: $125,080
Unemployment Rate: 2.2 percent

Maximizing profits, reducing costs and producing financial reports are the key duties of financial managers. They play increasingly important roles in companies as the economy grows and interest in managing monetary risk rises. Their job titles may include controller, treasurer, finance officer, risk manager or cash manager.

Becoming a financial manager requires at least a bachelor's degree, and many employers seek candidates with master's degrees, too. Employment is expected to increase 18.7 percent by 2026, adding 108,600 jobs.

Learn more about financial managers.

24. Accountant

Industry: Business 
Median Salary: $69,350
Unemployment Rate: 2.3 percent

For companies, governments or clients, accountants prepare and evaluate financial records for accuracy and to make sure taxes are promptly paid. Their responsibilities may entail making presentations or writing reports. These professionals may work as public accountants, who produce reports required by law, or management accountants, who work with internal budgets.

Accountants need at least a bachelor's degree, and many have roles that require them to earn certified public accountant licenses. Demand for accountants is predicted to increase 10 percent by 2026, adding 139,900 jobs.

Learn more about accountants.

23. Speech-Language Pathologist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $76,610
Unemployment Rate: 0.8 percent

Also called speech therapists, these health care workers help prevent and treat disorders related to talking and swallowing, which may be caused by stroke, hearing loss, developmental problems or Parkinson's disease. They perform their jobs in schools, doctor's offices, hospitals and nursing homes.

Speech-language pathologists need master's degrees and sometimes licenses to work. Demand is expected to increase 17.8 percent by 2026, adding 25,900 jobs.

Learn more about speech-language pathologists.

22. Podiatrist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $127,740
Unemployment Rate: 1.2 percent

People with calluses, arthritis, arch problems, diabetes and other ailments that affect their feet and ankles seek treatment from podiatrists. These lower-extremity experts may perform surgery, prescribe shoe inserts and give advice about how to keep feet healthy.

These professionals need to earn a four-year Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree from one of nine accredited institutions. Then, they complete three years of residency. Demand is expected to increase 10.3 percent by 2026, adding 1,100 jobs.

Learn more about podiatrists.

21. Clinical Laboratory Technician

Industry: Health care support
Median Salary: $51,770
Unemployment Rate: 0.7 percent

After doctors and nurses order medical tests, patients head to clinical laboratory technicians, who perform the requested services. These health care support workers then analyze body fluids and tissue samples to look for possible abnormalities. They may specialize in studying blood, cells or microbes.

This is one of the few jobs on this list that requires only an associate degree or postsecondary certificate. Demand is predicted to increase 14 percent by 2026, adding 22,900 jobs.

Learn more about clinical laboratory technicians.

20. Physical Therapist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $86,850
Unemployment Rate: 1.2 percent

The victories physical therapists help achieve can be grand, like treating an injured Olympic athlete who goes on to win gold, or modest, like helping a patient regain the ability to tie his shoes.

These health care workers seek to decrease people's physical pain, improve their mobility and regain strength. During the rehabilitation process, physical therapists assess patient needs and teach patients to perform stretches and exercises that will ameliorate their conditions.

After finishing college, these professionals must earn Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees, which typically require three years. Demand for the job is predicted to increase by 28 percent by 2026, adding 67,100 jobs.

Learn more about physical therapists.

19. Registered Nurse

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $70,000
Unemployment Rate: 1.4 percent

In medical settings, nurses are the health care professionals who work most closely with patients. They communicate with people about their needs and concerns, administer tests and monitor vital signs, keep records and pass information to doctors. And they teach patients and their families how to continue proper medical care at home.

Nurses can specialize in areas such as cancer, substance addiction, heart disease and birth and delivery. Some work in public health, offering screenings for diseases or vaccines for the flu.

Registered nurses typically have either bachelor’s or associate degrees in the field, plus licenses. Demand for registered nurses is expected to increase 14.8 percent by 2026, adding 438,100 jobs.

Learn more about registered nurses.
Learn more about nursing programs.

18. Cartographer

Industry: Engineering 
Median Salary: $63,990
Unemployment Rate: 0.7 percent

As modern mapmakers, cartographers use surveys and images to collect and study geographic data, then turn it into useful visual representations. They're employed by the government and firms that specialize in architecture, engineering and science.

Cartographers typically have bachelor's degrees in cartography, geography, surveying or geomatics. Demand is expected to rise 19.4 percent by 2026, adding 2,400 jobs.

Learn more about cartographers.

17. Mathematician

Industry: Business
Median Salary: $103,010
Unemployment Rate: 0.9 percent

Many mathematicians analyze data and use statistical theories to help make decisions for businesses and government offices. Others work in academic settings, teaching and conducting research about how the universe works.

There are lots of job titles in this field, including programmer, systems or quantitative analyst or data scientist. The career usually requires a master’s or doctoral degree. Demand for mathematicians is expected to grow 29.7 percent by 2026, adding 900 jobs.

Learn more about mathematicians.

16. Nurse Midwife

Industry: Health care 
Median Salary: $100,590
Unemployment Rate: 1.2 percent

Nurse midwives care for women and babies and advise on all aspects of reproductive health. In addition to delivering newborns, they perform gynecological exams. They may work irregular hours if they're on call to aid with deliveries.

These advanced practice registered nurses need master's degrees. Demand for their services is expected to increase 20.7 percent by 2026, adding 1,300 jobs.

Learn more about nurse midwives.

14. Surgeon (tie)

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: >$208,000
Unemployment Rate: 0.5 percent

Pay is high for this job – but so is stress. Surgeons work under extremely high pressure, spending days and nights hovering over the operating table while treating diseases and illnesses through surgery. They need steady hands, sharp reflexes and solid problem-solving skills.

These doctors may specialize in orthopedics, neurology, cardiovascular health or even plastic surgery, providing cosmetic or reconstructive services to patients. Surgeons must earn undergraduate and medical school degrees, then complete years of residency training. Demand for these doctors is expected to increase 14.4 percent by 2026, adding 6,500 jobs.

Learn more about surgeons
Learn more about medical schools.

14. Anesthesiologist (tie)

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: >$208,000
Unemployment Rate: 0.5 percent

Important members of surgical teams, anesthesiologists work as human painkillers. They administer the drugs that reduce patient discomfort or put them temporarily to sleep during operations such as tooth extraction and heart surgery, as well as procedures related to giving birth. Precision is important to their work, because they’ve got to get the medication dose exactly right while monitoring vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and body temperature.

Anesthesiologists need undergraduate and medical school degrees, plus years of residency experience and licenses to operate. Demand for these professionals is expected to increase 15.4 percent by 2026, adding 5,100 jobs.

Learn more about anesthesiologists
Learn more about medical schools.

13. Occupational Therapist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $83,200
Unemployment Rate: 0.5 percent

If an injury or disability makes it difficult for you to get around, fulfill job duties, keep clean or interact with family and friends, you may benefit from the expertise of an occupational therapist. These health care professionals help people with physical limitations develop and maintain the skills they need for daily life.

Occupational therapists evaluate patients and help them successfully complete specific activities, sometimes with the use of special equipment like wheelchairs and braces. They develop treatment plans that focus both on adapting the environment to better accommodate patients’ needs and helping patients adapt to their environments.

Occupational therapists need master’s degrees and licenses. Employment is expected to increase by 23.8 percent by 2026, adding 31,000 jobs.

Learn more about occupational therapists.

9. Physician (tie)

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $192,930
Unemployment Rate: 0.5 percent

This is a catch-all term for doctors of all varieties. Some physicians are internists whose work focuses on specific organ systems, including the liver, digestive tract or kidneys. For example, cardiologists are experts in heart health, while dermatologists focus on the skin. Other physicians work in family medicine, advising on common conditions such as minor injuries and infections and providing annual checkups. No matter their specialty, physicians may prescribe medicine, order and interpret tests and provide advice.

This career requires college and medical school degrees, plus completion of a residency program. Demand for physicians is expected to climb 14.6 percent by 2026, adding 7,300 jobs.

Learn more about physicians.
Learn more about medical school programs in internal medicine
Learn more about medical school programs in primary care.

9. Prosthodontist (tie)

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $185,150
Unemployment Rate: 0.9 percent

If you're missing a pearly white or several, a prosthodontist can help. These doctors of dentistry specialize in replacing missing teeth. To fill the gaps, they may turn to surgical techniques, like implanting a screw into the jawbone and adding a replacement tooth on top, or they may use products like caps, dentures, bridges or crowns.

These professionals attend college and dental school, then receive additional training. Demand for prosthodontists is expected to rise 19.1 percent by 2026, adding 200 jobs.

Learn more about prosthodontists.

9. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (tie)

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: >$208,000
Unemployment Rate: 0.5 percent

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons tackle medical situations more complicated and intense than what orthodontists and dentists handle. They extract wisdom teeth and others from the gums, excise oral cancers, correct jaw defects and perform surgeries on people with cleft lips or palates. They may also do cosmetic procedures related to the mouth.

These mouth doctors need college and dental school degrees. They must also complete surgical residency programs. Demand for oral and maxillofacial surgeons is expected to increase 19.1 percent by 2026, adding 1,300 jobs.

Learn more about oral and maxillofacial surgeons.

9. Obstetrician and Gynecologist (tie)

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: >$208,000
Unemployment Rate: 0.5 percent

Storks get all the credit for the hard work obstetricians and gynecologists do bringing new life into the world. These doctors jump into action when pregnant women go into labor, preparing for and aiding with delivery. But that's not all they do. Obstetricians and gynecologists provide medical care to women throughout their lives, usually related to the reproductive system. Many women visit their OB-GYN doctors annually for regular physical checkups, birth control, cancer screenings and tests related to sexually transmitted diseases.

After earning undergraduate and medical school degrees, obstetricians and gynecologists need several years of residency training. The field is expected to add 3,400 more jobs by 2026, a 15.5 percent increase.

Learn more about obstetricians and gynecologists
Learn more about medical school programs in women’s health.

8. Pediatrician

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $172,650
Unemployment Rate: 0.5 percent

As the guardians of children's health, these doctors need extra patience to serve their young patients, who include infants, toddlers, children and teenagers. Pediatricians handle common health concerns such as ear infections, minor injuries, strep throat and puberty challenges. They also administer the many vaccines kids require.

Pediatricians complete college, then graduate from medical school and finish a residency program. By 2026, pediatrician employment is expected to increase 15.4 percent, creating 4,600 new jobs for these doctors.

Learn more about pediatricians
Learn more about medical school programs in pediatrics.

7. Nurse Practitioner

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $103,880
Unemployment Rate: 1.1 percent

In most states, these advanced nurses can perform many duties associated with doctors, including diagnosing disease, prescribing medicine, requesting medical tests and referring patients to specialists. Nurse practitioners may work with specific sets of patients, such as people with mental illness, children or older adults.

After completing college, nurse practitioners must earn master’s degrees and licenses. They work in hospitals, outpatient centers and doctors’ offices. There is high demand for this role, and it’s expected to increase by 36.1 percent – or 56,100 jobs – by 2026.

Learn more about nurse practitioners
Learn more about nursing programs.

5. Nurse Anesthetist (tie)

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $165,120
Unemployment Rate: 0.4 percent

Patients undergoing surgery benefit from the pain-killing prowess of nurse anesthetists. During procedures, they administer anesthesia while monitoring vital signs, like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, to ensure that patients remain safe.

Before applying to graduate programs, these health care professionals must have a year of clinical experience, typically working as registered nurses in critical care environments. Demand for nurse anesthetists is expected to grow 16.2 percent by 2026, adding 6,800 jobs.

Learn more about nurse anesthetists.
Learn more about nursing programs.

5. Orthodontist (tie)

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: >$208,000
Unemployment Rate: 0.9 percent

Orthodontists specialize in shifting crooked teeth and correcting misaligned bites. Tools of their trade include braces, retainers and spacers.

The path to the orthodontist chair passes through many educational institutions. After graduating from college, these professionals must complete dental school (another four years) and then a specialized orthodontist program (another three years). Then they need to earn state licenses. The payoff for all that work? High salaries and above-average work-life balance. By 2026, experts predict a 19.3 percent increase in demand for orthodontists, or 1,300 new jobs.

Learn more about orthodontists.

4. Dentist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $151,440
Unemployment Rate: 0.9 percent

Treating medical problems that arise in the mouth is the specialty of dental doctors. They use X-rays, exams and tools like drills to diagnose and care for issues such as cavities and gum disease.

These oral health care experts earn college degrees, then attend specialized graduate programs. They may work with other dentists or run their own practices while collaborating with dental hygienists. By 2026, demand for dentists is expected to increase 19.4 percent, creating 25,700 new jobs.

Learn more about dentists.

3. Physician Assistant

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $104,860
Unemployment Rate: 0.8 percent

Physician assistants work closely with patients, performing duties that may include reviewing medical histories, conducting exams, diagnosing injury and disease, ordering tests, making prescriptions and administering treatment. As key players on a health care team, they collaborate with doctors and nurses in family and emergency medicine, plus surgery and psychiatry.

After college, these professionals typically earn master's degrees before finding work in hospitals and doctors’ offices. Demand for physician assistants is expected to increase dramatically by 37.3 percent by 2026, creating 39,600 new jobs.

Learn more about physician assistants.
Learn more about physician assistant programs.

2. Statistician

Industry: Business
Median Salary: $84,060
Unemployment Rate: 0.9 percent

When businesses and government agencies need help making sophisticated decisions and solving complicated problems, they turn to statisticians. These math whizzes gather data, then use theories, models and specialized software to predict outcomes.

College degrees and master's degrees are typical for statisticians, often in subjects such as mathematics, economics or computer science. They may specialize in fields like engineering or physics. Demand for statisticians is expected to increase by 33.8 percent by 2026, adding 12,600 jobs.

Learn more about statisticians.

1. Software Developer

Industry: Technology 
Median Salary: $101,790
Unemployment Rate: 1.9 percent

For the second year in a row, software developer tops this list. That's thanks to how integral digital technology has become to our personal and professional lives. Software developers pay attention to both aesthetics and function as they create and fix applications and programs for computers and smartphones.

Software developers typically have college degrees in computer science or a related discipline. Employment opportunities in the field are soaring; they’re expected to increase by more than 30 percent by 2026. That means the creation of 255,400 jobs.

Learn more about software developers.

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Nonfarm payrolls increased by 136,000 jobs last month, the government said. August data was revised to show 168,000 jobs created instead of the previously reported 130,000 positions.

The initial August job count was probably held back by a seasonal quirk related to students leaving their summer jobs and returning to school. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls would increase by 145,000 jobs in September.

Regardless of the continued moderate employment growth and sharp drop in the jobless rate, economists expect the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates at least one more time this year, given the trade policy uncertainty.

Washington announced this week tariffs on aircraft, other industrial products and agricultural products from the European Union as part of a World Trade Organization penalty award in a long-running aircraft subsidy case. Trade experts expect the EU will impose tariffs on U.S. goods next year over subsidies for Boeing.

The U.S. central bank cut rates last month after reducing borrowing costs in July for the first time since 2008, to keep the longest economic expansion in history, now in its 11th year, on track. Growth estimates for the third quarter range from as a low as a 1.3% annualized rate to as high as a 1.9% pace. The economy grew at a 2.0% pace in the second quarter, slowing from a 3.1% rate in the January-March period.

Steady job growth last month came despite the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) measure of manufacturing employment tumbling to more than a 3-1/2-year low. In September, the ISM's gauge of services industry employment fell to its lowest reading since February 2014.

September's job gains were below the monthly average of 161,000 this year, but still above the roughly 100,000 needed each month to keep up with growth in the working-age population. The two-tenths drop in the unemployment rate from 3.7% in August pushed it to its lowest level since December 1969.

Despite the tight labor market, average hourly earnings were unchanged last month after advancing 0.4% in August. In the 12 months through September, wages increased 2.9% after rising 3.2% in the 12 months through August.

The average workweek held steady at 34.4 hours in September. Hiring is slowing across all sectors, with the exception of government, which is recruiting for the 2020 decennial census.

Private payrolls increased by 114,000 jobs in September after rising by 122,000 in August. Manufacturing shed 2,000 jobs last month, the first decline since March, after hiring 2,000 workers in August.

Factory employment growth has slowed from last year's brisk pace. Manufacturing has ironically borne the brunt of the Trump administration's trade war, which the White House has argued is intended to boost the sector. Factories have also been cutting overtime for workers.

Government employment increased by 22,000 jobs in September after surging by 46,000 in August. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Sandra Maler and Paul Simao)

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