WASHINGTON (AP) _ The economy created new jobs at a modest pace in September, enough to keep the unemployment rate at 4.9 percent, just above a 24-year low.

Though growing with less momentum than earlier this year, the labor market still favored job-seekers, according to economists. And, they said, the slight cooling could be seen as a welcome development because it reduces the need for an inflation-dampening dose of higher interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last month matched August's rate and was just a shade above the 4.8 percent rate in July, lowest since 1973, the Labor Department said today.

Employers added 215,000 jobs to their payrolls in September, up from a paltry 40,000 in August, the fewest in 11 months. But the United Parcel Service strike and an early return to school by many teachers skewed both numbers.