Jobs picture better, but not great

Unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, the same as in May

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The national unemployment rate held steady at 7.6 percent in June. Employers came through by adding 195,000 jobs, more than analysts expected, making for a good day on Wall Street.

But it's still not good enough, according to some economists and employment advocacy groups, who point out that four years after the official end of the Great Recession, the economic recovery is still remarkably slow and the country has not regained the number of jobs that it had before the downturn.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that in June the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from May at 7.6 percent. While that is down by nearly 2 percentage points from the end of the recession four years ago, unemployment is still 3 percentage points higher than the 4.6 percent unemployment that the nation enjoyed in June 2007.

On a day of light trading following the July Fourth holiday, the major Wall Street indexes rose. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 147.29, or 0.98 percent, to end at 15,135.84. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 16.48, or 1.02 percent, to close at 1,631.89 and the Nasdaq was up 35.71, or 0.98 percent, to close at 3,479,38.

It was unclear how the jobs report might play into the Federal Reserve's decision on when to start pulling back on its efforts to stimulate the economy.

For the month of June, the nation had 136.9 million jobs. That was 5.3 million more than it had at the end of the recession, but still 1.8 million fewer than it had in June 2007, before the recession began.

At the same time, the population of Americans 16 and older grew by 13.8 million people. In June, just 63.5 percent of the population participated in the labor force, either by working or by trying to get a job. That is up 0.2 percentage point from April but, outside of this year, lower than at any time since 1981.

The country lost 6,000 manufacturing jobs and gained 37,100 retail jobs. "The economy is producing jobs, but they are, generally speaking, lousy ones. Goods-producing, family-supporting industries like manufacturing are falling behind," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, in Washington, D.C.

One of the reasons for the decline in manufacturing jobs is that international free trade deals have increased the trade deficit as other countries implement regulations that prevent U.S. goods from coming in and then secretly subsidize their own manufacturers, said Alan Tonelson, a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council in Washington, D.C.

He cited the example of a Japanese rule on the shape of tail lights that prohibits U.S. companies from selling cars in Japan. Mr. Tonelson argued that if U.S. car companies complied with that rule, which does not affect safety, then another would pop up to keep out American cars.

"The manufacturing trade deficit hit a new record last year and is on track to hit a new record this year," he said. The deficit, which tracks how many more manufactured goods are imported than exported, was nearly $688 billion.

Arne Kalleberg, author of the book "Good Jobs, Bad Jobs" and a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the jobs report, while better than expected, is not great news.

"We've still got a problem, but it seems to me we're not doing any worse than we were doing in the last three months and we're doing a little better," he said. "The jobs that are being created are not what I would consider to be good jobs."

He noted the number of people who are working part time because of the lack of full-time work is up by 322,000.

Mr. Kalleberg also noted that what some economists call the "real unemployment rate," which includes people who are working part time for economic reasons and the people who have stopped looking for work but want a job, rose from 13.8 percent in May to 14.3 percent in June.

The government jobs sector overall saw a net reduction of 7,000. Only local governments, which staff parks and recreational facilities, added jobs (15,000). Public schools cut 1,400 jobs in June. State governments cut 15,000 jobs, and the federal government cut 5,000 jobs.

Private educational services also cut 10,600 jobs.

The business services sector added 53,000 jobs, with 35,900 of those in administrative and support services. Of those administrative and support services jobs, 9,500 were temporary help jobs and 10,800 were services such as cleaning for businesses and dwellings.

Leisure and hospitality also had big job gains with a net of 75,000 new positions. About 18,900 of those were in amusements, gambling and recreation, such as casino and amusement park jobs. Another 51,700 were in bars and restaurants. While retailers added positions, so did wholesalers, adding 11,300 jobs.

Health care employers added 19,800 jobs. About 12,600 of those are classified as ambulatory health care, including 6,800 jobs in home health care services.

Financial activities added 17,000 jobs.

One good sign was that construction jobs were up by 13,000.

businessnews

Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.


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