With the US economic recovery hanging in the balance, private employers added 71,000 jobs in July, up from a downwardly revised 31,000 in June but below the consensus forecast of 90,000. The unemployment rate stayed steady at 9.5 per cent.
Overall, the country lost 1,31,000 jobs last month, but those losses came as 1,43,000 Census Bureau workers left their temporary posts, the Labor Department said. Junes number was revised dramatically downward to a total loss of 2,21,000 jobs. The agency originally reported that the nation lost 1,25,000 jobs in June.
Figures released recently confirmed that the US economy slowed in the spring, and the Department of Labors monthly statistical snapshot of hiring pointed toward a stall in hiring this summer, as employers failed to add jobs at the rate they were earlier this year.
With some economists predicting a double dip back into recession and the political stakes for the Obama administration rising as the weeks tick closer to the midterm elections, the recent unemployment report renewed pressure on lawmakers to consider the next steps they might take to bolster the economy. Recent indicators focusing on consumer confidence, retail sales and housing appear to put the economy in a holding pattern.
A crucial index of manufacturing a few days ago showed that activity had slipped slightly in July, chain stores reported anaemic increases in sales and unemployment claims rose above the level usual for this stage of a recovery. On the more positive side, auto sales increased 5.1 per cent in July compared with a year earlier, although from a very low base.
For now, companies appear nervous about expanding their payrolls. Businesses just dont want to hire, said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics. Workers are too costly and its very easy to substitute technology for labour.
He added that with corporate earnings rising partly on the back of cost-cutting, employers are reluctant to give up profits. So while corporate earnings were spectacular, Sinai said, the job market just stinks.
State government employment fell by 10,000 in July, and local governments lost 38,000 jobs as agencies came under budget pressures.
Manufacturing, which had recently been a bright spot in hiring, added 36,000 jobs during July.
The overall unemployment rate, incorporating people who want jobs but did not look during the month, remained unchanged at 16.5 per cent.
Our own view is that this is going to be a really protracted, drawn-out recovery here, said Joshua Shapiro, chief US economist at MFR Inc. You sometimes have to take a magnifying glass to see it. There are others who are more optimistic and they just keep saying just wait, just wait and theyve been saying just wait for quite some time.
For the 14.6 million people currently looking for work, the reluctance to hire outstrips the modest signs of economic growth.
This economy is absolutely appaling, said Mary Moore, 39, who has been applying for jobs as an administrative assistant in Norfolk, Virginia, since the publishing company she worked for closed in May of last year. Moore, who can collect unemployment benefits for a few more months, is struggling to pay her $525-a-month rent and health care premiums that recently nearly tripled to $379 a month.
As an American I did not believe we would see times such as this, she said.