By John S. McClenahen The presidential and vice presidential candidates will be talking about last week's U.S. Labor Department employment report for several more days, certainly through this coming Thursday, the day of the final scheduled debate between President George W. Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry. The employment report for September, released Oct. 8, showed 96,000 jobs being created across the country, less than the 103,000 average for the last three months and well below the 148,000 jobs economists generally expected would be created during September. Manufacturing, in contrast to recent gains, lost 18,000 jobs during September, "with small job losses occurring throughout the durable and nondurable goods components," the Labor Department's Bureau of Economic Statistics (BLS) stated. The overall U.S. unemployment rate remained at 5.4% in September. The department's September report is the last monthly employment report to be issued before the Nov. 2 presidential and congressional elections. October's employment report is scheduled to be released on Friday, Nov. 5. The Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers characterized September's loss of manufacturing jobs as "a likely temporary loss" and suggested that overall U.S. job growth during the month was negatively affected by the four hurricanes that struck the country during August and September and by rising energy prices. However, the BLS said it was not possible to precisely quantify the employment impact of the hurricanes. "At the national level, the severe weather appears to have held down employment growth, but not enough to change materially the Bureau's assessment of the employment situation in September."