Ben Bernanke
Chairman Ben Bernanke has a lot on his plate (Reuters)

The US economy added fewer jobs in August than the recent monthly average in a disappointing piece of data that may be a bump in the road for Federal Reserve Governor Ben Bernanke as the central bank looks to taper off its vast quantitative easing programme.

There were 169,000 jobs created in the US during August, with the unemployment rate being little unchanged from 7.3% the previous month.

The Bureau of Labour Statistics said US job creation averaged 184,000 per month over the prior 12 months, leaving August's reading short of expectations at a time when the economy looks to be on the up.

"We have opined that if we got a NFP report that was even close to expectations, it would have cemented a Fed taper announcement," said Adrian Miller, director of fixed-income strategy at GMP Securities LLC.

"However, the August report was anything but close, so now investors are left scratching their heads after becoming somewhat convinced the Fed would taper."

While the US economy has made significant progress in job creation since 2012, with the jobless rate down to 7.3% from 8.1%, when some commentators thought unemployment would ruin President Barack Obama's chance of winning a second term in office, there is still much to do.

The Fed has set an unemployment rate of 6.5% for the point in time when it may start to raise interest rates.

However to do this in the short-term, the US economy must create 200,000 jobs for a number of consecutive months to demonstrate the recovery is strong enough for the Fed to tighten monetary policy, including the tapering of its $85bn a month asset-purchasing stimulus programme.

US August Jobs Data

Retail trade added 44,000 jobs in August with clothing stores generating 14,000, electronics and appliance stores added 4,000 jobs, food and beverage stores 12,000 jobs and general appliance stores produced 9,000 jobs.

Over the past 12 months retail trade has created 393,000 jobs.

Similarly, food services and drinking places have increased by 354,000 over the past year with 614,000 jobs in professional and business services added over a 12 month period.

On another front heath care jobs rose by 33,000 in August with doctors' offices and home health care services putting 27,000 into that category.

Wholesale trade added 8,000 jobs in the past month and 83,000 over the preceding year.

Auto industry manufacturers added 34,000 jobs over the past year with 19,000 added over the month.

In the motion picture and sound recording industry 22, 000 jobs were axed but the BLS noted that the sector is volatile in monthly cycles.

Overall, the unemployment rate is 7.3% with the number of unemployed at a stubbornly high 11.3 million.