Job seekers fill out applications at a construction job fair in New York… (Seth Wenig, Associated…)
The latest snapshot of the U.S. employment picture is sparking conversation among Americans worried about the current economic climate and how it might affect the presidential race.
The disappointing jobs report is one of the last three to be released before November's presidential election, and the findings usually shape political speeches and reinforce platforms. People taking a break from their busy Friday in downtown Los Angeles had diverse opinions about the data, but many agreed a turnaround would take longer than a couple of months.
"The time frame we're looking at isn't feasible," said Myra McKissick, a senior administrative assistant at architecture firm HNTB. "We — the entire United States — has to work together to pick up this country. It's hard when people are taking lesser-paying jobs than they're used to and they're overqualified. It makes us all a little anxious as a society."
McKissick is no stranger to unemployment. The 49-year-old brought in more than $70,000 a year before being laid off in 2008. She spent a year looking for a job and is now making about $52,000 while supporting a daughter who is also unemployed and now back in school.
The nation's unemployment rate edged down to 8.1%, from 8.3% in July. But economists say that's primarily because people have dropped out of the labor force.
"I think the unemployment numbers are vastly understated," said Joseph J. Klauzar, 55, a portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. "The [government] uses a number that is not honest. It doesn't count those who have given up looking."
Klauzar believes that more companies could be hiring, but that they are holding back amid worries that President Obama might raise taxes or force them to pay more for employee healthcare.
"I do believe that in this particular situation, the lack of leadership is causing employers to hesitate in making a commitment to hire additional employees."
Mostafa Elnahrawy disagrees. The 48-year-old ramp service agent for United Airlines has seen positions open left and right.
"We're hiring all the time," said Elnahrawy, who is originally from Egypt. "We might get a lot more applicants than there are positions, but the positions are there."
The political back-and-forth stemming from the jobs report annoys him because it's not comprehensive.
"It's a lot to fix. [Obama] inherited a mess, but he's been making improvements," Elnahrawy said. "The auto industry was saved and by controlling the oil imports, we've been able to keep jobs, so we're on our way."