August figures showed that the country's unemployment had hit a four-year low of 4.9 percent as companies added 169,000 jobs, though the effect of Hurricane Katrina remains to be seen.

The Labor Department statistics included employment information collected before the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, the after effects of which will likely eliminate growth through the end of the year, even accounting for rebuilding efforts. In the latest available data, employment was up across all industries, except manufacturing.

Payroll gains were also revised for the June and July months, adding more than 50,000 jobs onto initial estimates. August's payroll gain was less than the 190,000 new jobs some economists had forecasted, expecting unemployment to hold steady at 5 percent.

Professional and business services added 29,000 jobs in August and financial companies added another 15,000. The report showed that the average time that the 7.4 million unemployed spent searching for work in August was 18.9 weeks, up from 17.6 weeks in July.

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