BUSINESS

Job Growth Slows In Last Two Months, Unemployment Still 5.1 Percent

(Updates with labor market figures)

* Nonfarm payrolls increase 142,000 in September

* Unemployment rate steady at 5.1 percent

* Average hourly earnings up just 2.2 percent from year earlier

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON, Oct 2 (Reuters) - U.S. employers slammed the brakes on hiring over the last two months and wages fell in September, raising new doubts the economy is strong enough for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates by the end of this year.

Payrolls outside of farming rose by 142,000 last month and August figures were revised sharply lower to show only 136,000 jobs added in August, the Labor Department said on Friday.

That marked the smallest two-month gain in employment in over a year and could fuel fears that the China-led global economic slowdown is sapping America's strength.

U.S. factories are feeling the global chill and shed 9,000 jobs in September after losing 18,000 in August, according to the Labor Department's survey of employers.

The recent pace of job growth should have been enough to push the unemployment rate lower because only around 100,000 new jobs are needed a month to keep up with population growth.

But the jobless rate held steady at 5.1 percent. The unemployment rate is derived from a separate survey of households that showed 350,000 workers dropping out of the labor force last month, as well as a lower level of employment.

Average hourly wages fell by a cent to $25.09 during the month and were up only 2.2 percent from the same month in 2014, pointing to marginal inflationary pressures. (Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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