July 2, 2010 in Business

Jobs report shows economic rebound may be stalling

Associated Press
 
Tepid hiring a hurdle for recovery
Wobbly recovery: The rebound is losing strength and threatens to fizzle out unless hiring picks up.

Lack of confidence: Businesses, wary of sales prospects, aren’t bulking up payrolls. They added 83,000 workers in June — not nearly enough to energize the rebound. The jobless rate fell to 9.5 percent only because more than a half-million people gave up looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.

Little relief in sight: The jobless rate is expected to stay above 9 percent this year.
Obama: Economy still headed right direction
President Barack Obama on Friday cast the state of the economy in upbeat terms, declaring that it was headed in the right direction even as employers slashed jobs last month for the first time in half a year and the unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent.

“To every American who is looking for work, I promise you we’re going to keep on doing everything that we can,” Obama said. “I will do everything in my power to help our economy create jobs and opportunities for all people.”

To that end, Obama announced the latest burst of taxpayer-financed stimulus spending, a nationwide project to expand broadband access in places with little or no reliable Internet service.

The president said it would create 5,000 construction jobs in the short term and ultimately benefit “tens of millions” of people.

WASHINGTON — A weak June jobs report offered the latest evidence that the economic recovery is slowing.

Employers cut 125,000 jobs last month, the most since October, the Labor Department said Friday. The loss was driven by the end of 225,000 temporary census jobs. Businesses added a net total of 83,000 workers, the sixth straight month of private-sector job gains but not enough to speed up the recovery.

Unemployment dropped to 9.5 percent — the lowest level since July 2009 — from 9.7 percent. But the reason for the decline was more than 650,000 people gave up on their job searches and left the labor force. People who are no longer looking for work aren’t counted as unemployed.

The latest figures suggest businesses are still slow to hire amid a weak economic recovery. Many economists were hoping to see more private-sector job growth, which would fuel the economy by boosting consumers’ ability to spend.

“It could have been worse, but it wasn’t good,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm. “It’s adding to the evidence that growth has slowed.”

People left the work force “because they think there’s nothing out there,” he added.

In a separate report, factory orders fell by 1.4 percent in May, the Commerce Department said. It was the first decline after nine months of gains and the biggest drop since March 2009.

The reports follow a slew of data and developments this week that point to slower growth in the months ahead.

In May, home sales plunged and construction spending dropped after a popular homebuyers’ tax credit expired on April 30. Consumer confidence has fallen sharply. The European debt crisis has sent U.S. financial markets downward, lowering household wealth. And more than a million jobless Americans have been cut off from unemployment benefits after Congress adjourned for a weeklong Independence Day recess without extending federal aid.

President Barack Obama said the economy is moving in the right direction, but not quickly enough. He seized on the latest data to push for more government stimulus — including the extension of jobless benefits — to aid the recovery.

“We’re not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans,” Obama said. “We’re not headed there fast enough for me, either.”

The disappointing jobs report added to investors’ concerns about the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 97 points in midday trading.

The unemployment rate and payroll figures can sometimes move in different directions because they are calculated from different surveys. The jobless rate is derived from a survey of households, while the payroll calculation is drawn from a separate survey of businesses.

The nation still has 7.9 million fewer private payroll jobs than it did when the recession began. The private sector has added an average of 98,000 jobs per month since the beginning of the year. At that rate, it would take nearly seven years to regain the jobs lost during the recession.

It takes about 100,000 new jobs a month to keep up with population growth. The economy needs to create jobs at least twice that pace to quickly bring down the jobless rate.

All told, 14.6 million people were looking for work in June. Counting those who have given up their job searches and those who are working part time but would prefer full-time work, the underemployment rate edged down to 16.5 percent from 16.6 percent in May.

Manufacturers, which have been a key source of job growth in the recovery, are hiring fewer people. Factories added 9,000 jobs in June, down from 32,000 in May and the lowest gain this year.

The leisure and hospitality industries, temporary staffing agencies, and education and health services providers also added jobs. Retailers, construction firms and financial service providers cut payrolls.

Private employers added only 33,000 jobs in May, the department said, below an earlier estimate of 41,000. April private-sector payrolls were revised up to show a total gain of 241,000 jobs, higher than the earlier estimate of 218,000.

The Census Bureau added more than 400,000 workers in May to assist with the 2010 employment count, but most of those jobs lasted only six to eight weeks. Economists expect that census layoffs will impact the payroll data for several more months, but not by nearly as much.

The average work week shortened to 34.1 hours from 34.2, the government said, a disappointing drop after three months of gains. Hourly wages also fell by two pennies to $22.53. The declines mean workers earned less money in the last month.

In addition, the drop in hours is a bad sign because employers are likely to cut hours for their current workers before reducing payrolls.

The employment report comes after Congress adjourned Thursday for the weeklong Independence Day recess without extending jobless aid. That has already left 1.3 million people without benefits. Senate Republicans blocked the extension, citing concerns over the federal deficit. That total number of Americans cut off from benefits could grow to 3.3 million by the end of this month if the impasse isn’t resolved when Congress returns.

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