Slow job growth keeps unemployment rate stubbornly high at 8.2 percent

By MARCELLA KREITER, United Press International  |  July 8, 2012 at 4:30 AM
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If U.S. President Barack Obama was looking for a boost to his campaign for re-election from the June unemployment report, he was sorely disappointed.

Friday's figure stayed at a stubborn 8.2 percent and the economy saw only about 80,000 jobs added during the month, with 12.7 million Americans still looking for work and 2.5 million more no longer counted in the workforce, 821,000 discouraged workers who are not currently looking for work because they don't think there are any jobs out there and 8.2 million Americans who want full-time work but are working only part-time, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

"There are no quick fixes to the problems we face that were more than a decade in the making," said Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

"Employment is growing but it is not growing fast enough given the jobs deficit caused by the deep recession."

The jobless rate, however, is nearly a point lower than last year at this time and well below the October 2009 peak of 10 percent when nearly 15.5 million were unemployed.

But the overall figures are just half the story. Unemployment for blacks is 14.4 percent; teenagers, 23.7 percent, and Hispanics, 11 percent. Overall for whites, adult men and adult women, the figures were a bit better, 7.4 percent, 7.8 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively. Among Asians, unemployment was 6.3 percent.

On a brighter note, the Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said layoffs hit a 13-month low in May -- 37,551 -- down 39 percent from 2011.

Where were jobs added? Mostly in the services sector: 47,000 in business and professional services, 9,000 in management and consulting services, 7,000 in computer systems design and related services. Manufacturing added 11,000 jobs in June, healthcare, 13,000 and wholesale trade, 9,000.

The National Employment Law Project notes July 1 marked a turning point: Extended unemployment benefits expire by the end of the year, so the newly unemployment will have just 26 weeks to find work.

"The economy is stuck with slow job growth and high unemployment. It desperately needs a boost to get out of this ditch," Christine Owens, NELP executive director, said in a release. "Let's hope that when Congress returns from its July 4th recess, it will put politicking and pyrrhic votes aside and focus on meaningful steps to restart growth and create jobs: fiscal relief to the states to put teachers, cops and firefighters back to work; job-creating direct investment in repairing and building crucial infrastructure; and continued support for the long-term unemployed, including renewal of the emergency federal unemployment insurance program before it expires at the end of the year. There's too much at stake for Congress to spend the next four months campaigning, instead of getting serious about putting America back to work."

Economist Peter Morici of the University of Maryland said signs point to more trouble down the road, citing China's decision to weaken its currency and close its markets to stimulate domestic growth, the crisis in Europe and mounting problems in China's housing and banking sectors.

In a good news/bad news analysis, Morici said unemployment likely will remain high "because so many folks who left the labor force would likely return if economic conditions improved.

"Were growth to pick up and the job market improved, given the state of household finances, the percentage of adults seeking employment could easily rise to pre-recession levels," Morici said in a release.

"The economy would have to add about 13 million jobs over the next three years -- about 360,000 each month -- to bring unemployment down to 6 percent. Growth [a gross domestic product] in the range of 4 to 5 percent is necessary to accomplish that."

The lagging recovery is taking a serious toll on younger workers.

"For young Americans, through no fault of their own, their story is one of few opportunities, delayed dreams and stalled careers. Today's unemployment numbers tell the story of millions of young Americans who are paying the price for the failed policies coming out of Washington that have inhibited economic opportunity and job creation," former Labor Department official Paul T. Conway said in a release.

"While leaders in Washington travel to communities to make campaign promises and seek to place blame for the results of their failed policies, young Americans are looking for more than rhetoric," said Conway, president of Generation Opportunity, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (c)(4) organization.

The jobs site CareerBuilder said, however, the outlook for the rest of the year may be brighter. It released a survey conducted by Harris Interactive May 14-June 4 of 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals indicating 44 percent plan to hire full-time, permanent staff through the end of the year. That compares with 35 percent who planned hiring a year ago.

"Two years ago, the hiring activity in the U.S. was driven primarily by large employers recruiting in metropolitan areas for a handful of industries or job functions. Today, we see job listings in all industries, market sizes and company sizes," CareerBuilder Chief Executive Officer Matt Ferguson said.

"The outlook for the remainder of the year is better than 2011, but it will follow the same pattern of steady progress rather than a surge in job growth. Employers will remain careful as they assess barriers and opportunities for growth in the economy and their own businesses."

Morici agreed: "Policies, favoring bank consolidation and financial schemes, alternative energy and high technology and government expansion of health care are hampering jobs creation in core-manufacturing, resources and many service activities. Those policies encourage more off-shoring, push down wages, pad big bonuses and dividends, and skew income toward the wealthiest in Manhattan, the Silicon Valley and other bastions of privilege."

The survey also indicated 21 percent of companies plan part-time and temporary hires, up from 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

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