Unemployment Rate Hits 9.7 Percent

Economic Indicators Aug 2009August job losses in the U.S. came in lower than expected, but the unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent, a high not seen in more than 25 years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its August employment report this morning, putting the monthly job loss at 216,000. The average of guesses by economists surveyed by Bloomberg and Dow Jones was 230,000 to 233,000.

While the job loss is the lowest since August 2008, overall the economy has lost 6.9 million jobs since December 2007, the official start of the recession. This year alone the number of jobs lost tops 3.5 million.

The BLS numbers reflect the mixed messages the economy has been sending in the last few months. While job losses have declined significantly since the early part of the year, the ranks of the unemployed and the underemployed continues to grow. The BLS said the unemployed grew by 466,000 in August to 14.9 million. An additional 9.1 million people were involuntarily working part time because their hours had been cut or they couldn’t find full-time work. An additional 2.3 million people are out of work, but not counted as unemployed because they didn’t look for work during the four weeks preceding the government survey.

When those persons are included in the tally of the unemployed, the unemployment rate would be 16.8 percent.

The August job losses were generally across the board, with construction jobs taking the biggest hit dropping by 65,000. Close behind, though, was the 63,000 lost manufacturing jobs, with automotive responsible for nearly a fourth of the loss there.  The financial sector, which precipitated the recession, cut another 28,000 positions. Only healthcare had any appreciable gains, adding 28,000 jobs during the month, mostly in ambulatory care and in nursing and residential care.

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