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Jobs bombshell raises questions of new weakness

Job seekers wait to meet with a recruiter during a career fair in San Francisco.
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August's nonfarm payrolls growth of just 142,000 raises concerns that the economy is healing unevenly, but economists say the stunningly weak jobs report could be just a temporary setback in a stronger trend.

The soft employment data, however, is also questionable enough to add fuel to the debate about labor slack when the Fed meets later in the month, though economists don't see any change in Fed policy.

The total August payrolls growth is the first below 200,000 in seven months, and included revisions that cut a combined 28,000 jobs from June and July. The jobless rate fell to 6.1 from 6.2 but it accompanied a drop in labor force participation to 62.8 percent from 62.9 percent.

Read MorePayroll growth slumps in August; rate down to 6.1%

"I think it's just a clunker. I wouldn't put too much emphasis on it. It is disturbing .We had six months of 200,000 and now we have a clunker," said John Canally, market strategist and economist at LPL Financial. Canally said August payroll data have been below expectations 17 of the last 18 years.