Unemployment Rate Holds in July, But That’s all the Good News

The U.S. economy continued to plod along in July, adding 71,000 private sector jobs, but losing 131,000 jobs overall due to the layoff of temporary Census workers. The unemployment rate held at 9.5 percent.

The numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning were not as good as economists were expecting. Surveys of labor market forecasters put the number of new private sector jobs in the range of 90,000 to around 100,000. Only the unemployment rate, which had been estimated to rise to 9.6 percent, was better than expected.

The weak report prompted a weak opening in the stock markets. The Dow started the day down.

Almost all of the jobs lost in July were in government, with 143,000 temporary Census workers laid off. State and local governments and public education also continued to shed jobs; almost 50,000 during the month.

Meanwhile, the BLS sharply revised its June employment report. Instead of the 125,000 job loss in the initial report, the government now says the economy lost 221,000. The private sector added only 31,000, a big difference from the 83,000.

Since the beginning of the year, the economy has gained 630,000 private industry jobs, the BLS says, with about two thirds of the increase coming in the early spring.

Many of those jobs have been in the services area, though manufacturing has also picked up. In July, the sector added 36,000 jobs, most of them in the automotive industry.

However, both construction and financial activities lost jobs. The categories have been the biggest losers since the recession began more than two years ago. Construction lost another 11,000 jobs, while finance, mostly in the real estate, rental, and leasing services area, lost 9,000 jobs.

Although the unemployment rate didn’t change, and the number of persons counted as unofficially unemployed stayed at 14.6 million, the actual numbers of people out of work is several million higher. To be counted as unemployed, you have to actively look for work at some point in the four weeks prior to the government’s monthly survey.

These unincluded are considered marginally attached and in July numbered 2.6 million, about 340,000 higher than in July 2009. Another 8.5 million people are working part time because they can’t find full-time jobs. That number is down 623,000 since April. Why, isn’t entirely clear, though there is some indication from the statistics that some of them have simply given up looking for work entirely and are therefore considered not to be in the workforce.

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