U.S. companies added 103,000 jobs in September, a small step in the right direction for the economy, though not enough to budge the unemployment rate from 9.1 percent, where it's been stuck for three straight months.
The news was positive for workers 45 and older, who saw unemployment drop to 6.6 percent in September from 7.0 percent the previous month, the lowest it's been since April and May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) monthly update. At that level, the jobless rate for midcareer and older workers is once again the lowest it's been in two years.
The number of people 45 and older with jobs also was encouraging, with 55.2 percent participating in the labor force -- that's the highest since December 2010, according to the BLS.
September job growth for all age groups came from increased hiring in the professional and business services, health-care and construction industries. It was more than enough to offset declines in employment by government agencies at all levels, where positions continue to be eliminated.
The employment news comes as President Obama continues stumping for his $447 billion American Jobs Act, and the Occupy Wall Street movement protesting corporate greed and the economy's inability to foster substantial new job growth spreads across the country.
In its response to the job report, the White House says unemployment still is "unacceptably high" and that the latest numbers show why it's necessary to pass the jobs bill. "Clearly, we need faster economic growth to put Americans back to work," Katherine Abraham, a member of the president's Council of Economic Advisors, writes on a White House blog.
Green Acres Grants: The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued grants worth $18 million to beginning farmers and ranchers, part of a program to attract new blood to a profession with a median age of 57. According to Grist, a significant amount was dedicated to sustainable practices training or organizations practicing sustainable farming. Another $18 million will be awarded in 2012, the third year of the agency's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
Mortgage Rates Hit Record Low: Interest rates on home loans hit an all-time low this week, but it might not mean automatic savings for consumers looking to buy or refinance. The average rate on a 30-year, fixed mortgage dipped below 4 percent for the first time, to 3.94 percent, according to Freddie Mac data. But lenders are keeping rates slightly higher because demand is there, and if they set rates too low they'd have more business than they could handle, writes AnnaMaria Andriotis in SmartMoney. "Separately, lenders haven't loosened their tight requirements for those lower mortgage rates," she writes. "The best rates are given to borrowers who have high credit scores, sizable down payments and low debt levels -- a small demographic group given the current economy and sinking home values.
Could a Pill Wash Away the Gray? Cosmetics giant L'Oreal is developing a pill based on a fruit extract that mimics an enzyme that could prevent hair from turning gray. The TRP-2 enzyme helps make pigment-producing cells called melanocytes, which theoretically could stop hair from turning gray, ABC News reports. L'Oreal, which has been working on the anti-aging treatment for a decade, says a pill could be ready by 2015. But medical professionals have raised concerns, saying it's unclear what effect such a treatment could have on skin and organs, and that some people don't go gray, so if they took such a pill there would be no way of knowing whether it worked.
Fall Foliage Apps: Vacationers traveling to New Hampshire, upstate Wisconsin or elsewhere to find fall color have their pick of smartphone apps to guide their journeys. The Foliage Leaf Peepr (free), for example, has color-coded maps that show where leaves are green, turning, in peak color, fading or done, as well as a crowdsourcing feature that lets users upload and geo-tag their own photos, according to a New York Times report. The US Trees app (99 cents) helps identify trees by shape and leaf, and the Tree ID with Fall Foliage ($2.99) provides trees' scientific names and includes 50 species known for their fall colors.
Nimoy Bids Adieu to Star Trek Fans: Forty-five years after originating the character of pointy-eared logician Mr. Spock on Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy says he's done making appearances at Trekkie conventions. "This is hard. I thought it would be, and it is," he told fans at a sci-fi convention last week, Zap2It reported. The 80-year-old actor, who's also a talented photographer, isn't retiring completely. According to Zap2It, he will likely continue to make cameo appearances in films and TV shows.
Website of the Week: Boomers don't have to march in the streets to join Occupy Wall Street protesters. They can also participate by dumping credit cards, moving funds to a local credit union and working for themselves, writes financial columnist Doug McNay on HuffPost/50, a microsite for boomer news that The Huffington Post launched this week.
Last Word: "He disproved F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous saying that there are no second acts. He had a spectacular second act. He was a singular individual." -- Jim Barry, spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association, on Apple founder and ex-CEO Steve Jobs, who died this week of pancreatic cancer at 56.