Maryland, Virginia, and the District all lost jobs in September, the Labor Department reported Friday. The numbers are the first read on local employment last month and suggest a late summer softening in the region's job market, which has been generally strong over the past year.

Maryland had 2,400 fewer jobs in September than August, Virginia employers shed 4,600 and the District lost 5,000. The steepest losses were in Maryland and the District, which added private sector jobs but lost so many government jobs that an overall loss was the result. The District lost 6,200 government jobs in September and Maryland 6,500, while Virginia gained 200.

But the numbers should be read with caution. Job numbers for individual states are volatile from month to month, and the October numbers that come out next month could swing the other way.

On the other hand, the September losses do not stand alone; all three jurisdictions had fewer jobs than in July. It could turn out to be a simple mid-year lull, or it could be that the roaring job growth in the three jurisdictions during the first half of the year is not continuing.

If that is true, it would match what appears to be happening with the national economy, which after a spurt in job creation in the spring added relatively few jobs in August and September.

-- Neil Irwin