America’s employers added jobs at a tepid pace in August, posing a re-election challenge for President Barack Obama and raising the likelihood the Federal Reserve will step in to spur growth when it meets in the coming week.

“Every major aspect of the report was negative,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities in Stamford, Conn. “In effect what we’ve had is very mediocre gains for three years. It will look like we’re off to the races but then we’re back to weak gains again, and now we’re back into one of those phases where we’re looking at clearly subpar numbers.”

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