WASHINGTON - The job market is struggling to regain its balance after getting knocked over by Hurricane Katrina. Employers, coping with high energy prices and shaken by two other hurricanes, showed caution in hiring in October.
Following September’s job loss — the first decline in employment in two years — employers boosted payrolls by just 56,000 last month. The rebound lacked oomph, falling well short of the roughly 100,000 jobs gains many economists were forecasting.
‘‘Elevated energy prices, questionable holiday spending and the rising interest rate environment are sending yellow caution flags around many corporate board rooms,’’ said Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research.
The unemployment rate, meanwhile, edged down to 5 percent in October as some people opted to leave the civilian labor force for any number of reasons. The jobless rate in September had crept up to 5.1 percent.
The latest report on the nation’s employment climate, released by the Labor Department on Friday, showed that the job market is slowly on the mend from the punches thrown by the storms but still isn’t back to full health. ‘‘The economy has weathered these storms about as gracefully as could be expected,’’ said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com.
Job losses in September turned out to be just 8,000. That was smaller than the 35,000 decline initially estimated.