Reporting from Washington — The employment picture in the U.S. remained bleak last month as the nation's payrolls fell for a second straight month, with private-sector businesses adding a disappointingly scant number of new jobs. The jobless rate held steady at 9.5% in July, the government said Friday.
The Labor Department said that private employers added just 71,000 new net jobs in July. Meanwhile, the federal government laid off 143,000 temporary census workers, and with budget-strapped local governments also cutting back, the total number of American jobs last month fell by 131,000 from June.
What's more, Labor statisticians revised down the job figures for June, saying that total payroll jobs fell by 221,000 that month instead of 125,000 previously estimated.
Overall, the latest snapshot of the U.S. economy indicates no momentum building in the crucial job market, which underpins consumer spending and confidence on the part of individuals and businesses. After adding 200,000 private-sector jobs on average in March and April, the labor market has weakened ÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â‚– producing just 51,000 jobs on average in each of the last three months. The data are consistent with other economic indicators such as housing and retail sales that have softened since late spring.
Friday's report showed a gain of 36,000 jobs in manufacturing last month, but much of that was because automakers had fewer seasonal layoffs than usual. The healthcare sector added 27,000 jobs over the month.
But hiring at other service industries, including those that pay better wages, remain anemic. Professional and business services lost 13,000 jobs over the month, and companies engaged in financial activities cut 17,000 from their payrolls. Altogether, the average workweek for workers rose a notch to 34.2 hours.
The unemployment rate, which has drifted down from 9.7% in May, would have been considerably higher if not for many people dropping out of the workforce.
The total number of officially unemployed remained at about 14.6 million last month, with nearly half of them jobless for more than six months.
A broader measure of unemployment plus under-employment, which includes part-time workers who want full-time jobs, remained at 16.5% in July.