Last updated: February 16. 2013 10:43PM - 91 Views

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WASHINGTON ‚?? U.S. employers added 96,000 jobs in August, a tepid figure that points to the economy‚??s persistent weakness and slowing prospects for the unemployed.

The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July. But that was only because more people gave up looking for jobs. People out of work are counted as unemployed only if they‚??re looking for a job.

The sluggish job growth could make the Federal Reserve more likely to unveil a new bond-buying program at its meeting next week. The goal would be to lower long-term interest rates to encourage borrowing and spending.

Hourly pay fell in August, manufacturers cut the most jobs in two years and the number of people in the work force dropped to its lowest level in 31 years. The government also said 41,000 fewer jobs were created in July and June than first estimated.

Most economists say they expect the Fed to announce action to try to stimulate the economy. And many now think the Fed will make the boldest move it can ‚?? a third round of bond buying to try to lower long-term interest rates.

The unemployment rate declined in August, but for a bad reason: The government doesn‚??t count people as unemployed if they‚??ve stopped looking for a job.

The number of people working or looking for work shrank in August by 368,000, the government said. One reason the proportion of adults in the work force has dropped is that many younger adults have given up looking for a job. Or they never started.

The proportion of people ages 16 to 24 in the workforce fell more than 1 percentage point last month to 54.1 percent. That‚??s the lowest ‚??participation rate‚?Ě for that group in 57 years. Many are likely staying in school or returning to school, hoping for a turnaround in the job market later.

By contrast, the participation rate for workers 55 and older rose from 40.2 percent to 40.4 percent. The rate for those 25 to 54 was unchanged at Numerous industries added jobs last month. But they didn‚??t add many. And the jobs they filled weren‚??t necessarily well-paying.

For example, one of the biggest gains was in the generally low-paying restaurant industry, which added 28,300 jobs. Another, retailing, added 6,100.

Manufacturing jobs, which tend to pay above-average wages, fell 15,000.

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