Mildly good news for the administration from the Department of Labor this morning:

Nonfarm payroll employment edged up by 103,000 in September, and the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The increase in employment partially reflected the return to payrolls of about 45,000 telecommunications workers who had been on strike in August. In September, job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, and construction. Government employment continued to trend down.

So we’re counting as gains jobs that were never lost in the first place? It’s not that it’s unfair, since those counted as jobs lost in the August survey, but it’s not exactly a job-growth indicator, either. Without the return of striking workers who weren’t losing their jobs in the first place, we have a jobs report that essentially met analyst expectations at 58,000 (Bloomberg and Reuters expected 60K growth).

Either way, this isn’t a blockbuster jobs report.  Even at 103K, that’s barely keeping up with population growth at best (estimates range from 100K-125K needed).

Year on year, the number of those marginally attached to the workforce has barely budged.  In September 2010, 5.949 million people wanted a job, and this year the number is 5.929 million.  Discouraged workers did drop from 1.209 million to 1.037 million, but the “other” category increased from 1.340 million to 1.474 million.  Both the average and mean duration of unemployment increased in September (0.2 and 0.4 weeks, respectively).

Reuters didn’t exactly break out the ribbons and champagne over the new numbers:

Employment grew more than expected in September and job gains for the prior months were revised higher, according to a government report on Friday that could ease fears the economy was heading into recession.

Nonfarm payrolls rose 103,000 the Labor Department said on Friday, while the unemployment rate held steady at 9.1 percent as an increase in household employment offset a rise in the participation rate. …

Private employment increased 137,000 last month, an acceleration from August’s meager 42,000 count. But government payrolls fell 34,000 as employment at the local government level fell 35,000 and the Postal Service shed 5,000 positions.

The report certainly beats August’s net gain of zero, but it’s not a sign of impending growth, either.

Update: Steve Eggleston points out that the U-6 measure of unemployment and underemployment rose 0.3 points to 16.5%.   That’s the highest it has been in months, and has increased since May from 15.8%.

Also, Suitably Flip graphs the actual jobs growth over the last three months after accounting for the Verizon strike, and it’s not pretty.