The nation’s jobless rate was 5.6 percent in September, the Labor Department said, dropping 0.1 percent.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 8.092 million people were jobless in September, and one-fifth of them – more than in the past two years – were jobless for at least 27 weeks, meaning they may have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Several senators propose another extension of jobless benefits, which the AFL-CIO supports. The average worker is now jobless 17.4 weeks, a rise of one week in the last month.

Overall, the number of jobless in September was 2.136 million more than when the U.S. Supreme Court seated GOP nominee George W. Bush in the Oval Office in January 2001.

The jobless rate that month – compiled in the last weeks of President Clinton’s term – was 4.2 percent.

Including the jobless, people who wanted to work but stopped seeking it because of lack of prospects, and those forced to toil part-time because that’s all they could find though they wanted to work full time, 9 percent of the U.S. workforce was unemployed or underemployed, BLS said.

High-paying factories continued to shed jobs, losing 35,000 workers in September. BLS said that after factory job losses moderated during the summer, they are speeding up again.

Meanwhile, low-paying temp supply services added 20,500 jobs in September, on top of a 91,000-job jump in August.

The September data marked a year since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and comparisons with September 2001 – data collected the week before the attacks – are instructive. Non-Postal Service federal jobs rose by 41,500 in the 12 months, to 1.818 million, reflecting more hiring of airport screeners.

But industries the attacks affected shed thousands of jobs. From August to September 2002, high-paying aircraft factories lost another 5,200 workers, dropping below 400,000. They lost 14 percent of their jobs in the last 12 months. Airlines lost 105,100 jobs, down to 1.162 million. Hotels and lodging places lost 75,100 jobs in the last year, down to 1.835 million. And eating and drinking places lost 108,000, to 8.241 million.

Except for teenagers, jobless rates for major groups were unchanged. The teen rate dropped 1.5 percent, to 15.7 percent.

Reprinted with permission from Press Associates Union News Service, Mark Gruenberg, editor.