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Jobless Rate Hovers Near 6%

Employers shed 93,000 more jobs in August, even as the economy continued to grow. Some experts see a new type of business cycle.

September 06, 2003|Peter G. Gosselin | Times Staff Writer

The nation's manufacturers shed a net 44,000 workers in August -- their 37th straight month of job losses. Bush, expressing concern about the continued decline of manufacturing, said Monday that he planned to appoint a new assistant Commerce secretary to help the sector.

But a GOP congressional staffer said Thursday that the White House simply plans to rename an existing Commerce job that was slated for elimination, and that -- far from being the administration's idea -- the change was required as part of the recently approved budget bill.

The nation's service sector cut a net 67,000 jobs in August, including 4,000 in retail trade, according to the Labor Department. Professional and business industries cut a net 28,000, the first decline in five months.

Among those adding workers were the construction industry (19,000) and the health and education sector (24,000).

Also adding jobs was the nation's temporary-help industry. But analysts said the 6,800-job increase by temp agencies, whose hiring is often considered an early indicator of recovery, was too small to offer much encouragement.

"You would have liked to see a leading indicator like temp help do better than that," said Banc of America Securities economist Peter Kretzmer.

Kretzmer noted that another leading indicator -- the length of the average workweek for production and non-supervisory employees -- did not budge last month. Employers usually boost work hours early in a recovery.

Commentators have regularly noted the similarity between the current period and the "jobless recovery" of the early 1990s, when employment was slow to return even as the economy began to grow again. But analysts said Friday that the parallels were breaking down as employers continue to drop workers.

At a comparable point in the early 1990s recession, employment had expanded by 876,000, according to Labor Department figures.

Times staff writer Maura Reynolds in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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