Unemployment Rises to 9.7%

Unemployment Rises to 9.7% WASHINGTON, DC - The job market continued its long, steep decline in August, with the jobless rate soaring to 9.7 percent and employers continuing to shed jobs, albeit at a slower rate than expected. Analysts generally believe that economic output began rising by late summer. But new Labor Department data released Friday morning shows that that improvement isn't yet flowing through to the job market, as employers remain highly reluctant to add staff.

The rise in the unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent in August, from 9.4 percent in July, resumed a steep upward path that has been only rarely interrupted since the recession began in December 2007. Employers shed 216,000 net jobs, significantly better than the revised 276,000 jobs lost in July and less than the 230,000 decline that forecasters expected.

The tally now stands at 6.9 million jobs lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. A broader measure of joblessness rose even more sharply than the headline unemployment rate. An expanded unemployment rate that includes people who have given up looking for a job out of frustration and who are working part time but want a full-time job rose to 16.8 percent, from 16.3 percent.

The rate of job losses has been declining, if haltingly, since winter. The August numbers, bad as they are, do offer hope that job losses will continue tapering off. Economists generally consider the job loss numbers to be a more reliable month-to-month barometer of the economy than the unemployment rate, and that measure indicated the slowest rate of job loss since August 2008.

The report also said that the average workweek was unchanged at 33.1 hours. Employers have cut back on hours in the current downturn, in addition to cutting jobs entirely, and are expected to have existing employees work longer hours before bringing new people onto their staffs. The hours-worked number confirms that employers have stopped cutting back hours but gives no evidence they are starting to expand hours yet.

Among the most positive signs in the report, average earnings for non-managerial workers rose 0.3 percent in August, the Labor Department said.

The job losses, though lower than in recent months, remained broad-based. The construction industry cut 65,000 jobs, in line with the recent trend. Manufacturing companies cut 63,000 jobs. The health-care sector, as it has throughout the recession, added jobs.
Source: WashingtonPost.com

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