WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month, dropping below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years. The rate fell because more people found work, a trend that could impact the presidential election.
The Labor Department says employers added 114,000 jobs in September. The economy also created 86,000 more jobs in July and August than first estimated. Wages rose in September and more people started looking for work.
The revisions show employers added 146,000 jobs per month from July through September, up from 67,000 in the previous three months. The unemployment rate fell from 8.1 percent in August, matching its level in January 2009 when President Barack Obama took office.
The decline could help Obama, who is coming off a disappointing debate against Mitt Romney.
There are only two employment reports left before Election Day, so Friday's figures could have a major impact on the presidential campaign.
Meantime, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, a level consistent with only modest hiring. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, was unchanged at 375,000.
Unemployment benefit applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they consistently fall below 375,000, it typically indicates that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
Applications have mostly stayed near or above that level since the spring, coinciding with a weak stretch of hiring. The government reports Friday on September hiring and unemployment.
The economy has added an average of just 87,400 jobs a month since April, down from an average of 226,000 jobs a month in the January-March quarter.