WASHINGTON -- The American job machine has jammed. Again.
The economy added only 80,000 jobs in June, the government said Friday, erasing any doubt that the United States is in a summer slump for the third year in a row.
"Let's just agree: This number stinks," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at the investment firm BTIG.
It was the third consecutive month of weak job growth. From April through June, the economy produced an average of just 75,000 jobs a month, the weakest three months since August through October 2010.
The unemployment rate stayed at 8.2 percent – a recession-level figure, even though the Great Recession has technically been over for three years.
The numbers could hurt President Barack Obama's odds for re-election. Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee, said they showed that Obama, in three and a half years on the job, had not "gotten America working again."
"And the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it," Romney said in Wolfeboro, N.H. "This kick in the gut has got to end."
Obama, on a two-day bus tour through the contested states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, focused on private companies, which added 84,000 jobs in June, and took a longer view of the economic recovery.
"Businesses have created 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months, including 500,000 new manufacturing jobs," the president said. "That's a step in the right direction."
The Labor Department's report on job creation and unemployment is the most closely watched monthly indicator of the U.S. economy. There are four reports remaining before Election Day, including one on Friday, Nov. 2, four days before Americans vote.
No president since World War II has faced re-election with unemployment over 8 percent. It was 7.8 percent when Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976. Ronald Reagan faced 7.2 percent unemployment in 1984 and trounced Walter Mondale.
Patrick Sims, director of research at the consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies, said that "time has run out" for unemployment to fall below 8 percent by Election Day.
That would require an average of about 220,000 jobs a month from July through October – more like the economy's performance from January through March, when it averaged 226,000 per month.
Few economic analysts expect anything close to that.
"The labor market is treading water," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. She called it an "ongoing, severe crisis for the American work force."
The Labor Department report put investors in a sour mood.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 124 points. Industrial and materials companies, which depend on economic growth, were among the stocks that fell the most. The price of oil fell $2.77 per barrel to $84.45.
Money flowed instead into U.S. Treasurys, which investors perceive as safer than stocks when the economy is weakening. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to 1.54 percent, from 1.59 percent on Thursday.
Investors were already worried about a debt crisis that has gripped Europe for almost three years and recent signals that the powerhouse economy of China is slowing.
Earlier this week, the European Central Bank and the central bank of China cut interest rates in hopes of encouraging people and businesses to borrow and spend money.
For American investors, however, the jobs report fell into an uncomfortable middle ground.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke promised last month that the Federal Reserve would take additional steps to help the economy "if we're not seeing a sustained improvement in the labor market."
But some financial analysts said that the Labor Department report, while disappointing, was not weak enough to lock in further action by the Fed at its next meeting July 31 and Aug. 1.
The slowdown in job growth has been stark. From December through February, the economy produced an average of 252,000 jobs a month, twice what is needed to keep up with population growth.
But the jobs generator started sputtering in March, when job growth slowed to 143,000.
At first, economists blamed the weather for warping the numbers. An unusually warm winter allowed construction companies and other employers to hire earlier in the year than usual, effectively stealing jobs from the spring, they said.
But weird weather could only explain so much, and the bad news kept coming: The economy added just 68,000 jobs in April and 77,000 in May. Those figures reflect revisions from earlier estimates of 77,000 for April and 69,000 for May.
June's dud of a number made it clear that the economy has fallen into the same pattern it followed in 2010 and 2011: It gets off to a relatively fast start, then fades at midyear.
Offering some hope, the slowdowns the two previous years lasted just four months each.
From June through September 2010, the economy lost an average of 75,000 jobs per month. From May through August 2011, the economy added an average of 80,000 per month. Both years, hiring picked up significantly when the weak stretches ended.
To be sure, the United States is still suffering the hangover of a financial crisis and the worst recession since the 1930s. The economy lost 8.8 million jobs during and after the recession. It has regained 3.8 million.
The economy isn't growing fast enough to create jobs at a healthy clip. That is primarily because three traditional pistons of the economic engine aren't firing the way they normally do:
_ Consumer spending since the recession has been weaker than in any other post-World War II recovery, partly because wage increases have been small. In such a weak job market, employers don't need to give big raises. And households are trying to pay off the debt they ran up in the mid-2000s.
_ Housing has been a dead weight on the economy for six years. Home-building usually powers economic recoveries, but construction spending is barely half what economists consider healthy.
_ Government, which usually picks up the slack in the job market when the economy is weak, isn't helping this time. Counting federal, state and local jobs, governments have cut 637,000 jobs since 2008. They have cut 49,000 the last three months.
In the first three months of this year, it appeared state and local government job losses were coming to an end.
"That turned out to be a temporary halt," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial. "Apparently, there's no end in sight."
The figure of 80,000 jobs came from a Labor Department survey of businesses and government agencies. Another survey, of American households, looks better. It shows the number of employed Americans rose by 381,000 the past three months – 127,000 a month.
The household survey can catch the self-employed and those working for very small businesses, who can be missed by the bigger business survey. But over time the two surveys usually tell the same story.
The unemployment rate last month was unchanged from May. But a broader measure of weakness in the labor market, the so-called underemployment rate, deteriorated for the second straight month.
In June, 14.9 percent of Americans either were unemployed, had been forced to settle for part-time employment, or had given up looking for work and were not counted as unemployed. The rate was 14.8 percent in May and 14.5 percent in April.
The Labor Department report left economists grasping for good news. Average hourly pay rose 6 cents in June, the biggest monthly gain in nearly a year. The average workweek grew slightly, the first gain in four months.
The extra hours and higher wages put more money in consumers' pockets. And companies hired 25,000 temporary workers, usually a sign that they will hire full-time workers soon.
"That we latch on to these modest positives speaks to the bias of low expectations," Greenhaus said.
Meantime, 12.7 million Americans remain officially unemployed.
When Deborah Masse, 49, lost a job in 2007, she had a job offer within six weeks. This time has been different. Since being laid off in October 2011, she has sent thousands of resumes and had several phone interviews but received no offers.
Masse, who lives in Stanton, Mich., with her husband and mother, has tried to make use of her free time. She has exercised more, learned some French and Spanish, and brushed up on her technology skills.
"If nothing else," she said, "I will end up on Social Security, more fit, more intelligent and worldly – and broke."
AP Business Writers Martin Crutsinger in Washington and Pallavi Gogoi in New York contributed to this report.
On the campaign trail in Ohio today, President Obama sought to strike a balance between praising his own economic record and blasting the economic results of gridlock in Congress.
Obama called the jobs report "a step in the right direction," but added that "we can't be satisfied."
"I want to get back to a time when middle-class families and those working to get into the middle class have some basic security," he said.
Chad Stone, chief economist of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in a statement that the economy really needs to add more than twice as many jobs per month to have a robust recovery:
The percentage of people in the labor force who are long-term unemployed remains much higher than in any year prior to the latest recession, in data going back to 1948.... Although private employers have added jobs for 28 straight months, the pace of job creation has been modest compared with the 200,000 to 300,000 jobs a month or more that would mark a robust job market recovery.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he wants you to know that he feels your pain. He said in New Hampshire today that "kick in the gut has got to end."
"American families are struggling," Romney said. "There is a lot of misery in America today."
From Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase:
Each month that the hiring slowdown persists it becomes increasingly difficult to dismiss it as merely temporary payback for the burst of weather-induced hiring during the mild winter. Instead, it appears businesses remain quite cautious about the outlook and thus are reluctant to take on more workers.
From a research note by Wells Fargo economists John Silvia and Sarah Watt:
We remain of the view that the U.S. economy continues to move forward at a subpar pace of growth, and that this pace will continue to incentivize households, private business and governments at all levels to continue to restructure in order to be efficient at a slower pace of growth.... The motivating factor in economics, as in baseball, is what you get relative to what you expect. In baseball, if the pitcher throws a slider when you expected a fastball, then you have a problem. In economics, the gain in jobs, income and overall top-line revenue has not measured up to the expectations of many households and businesses. Therefore, decision makers are adjusting and currently the bias is toward caution given the level of uncertainty on growth and income expectations.
From Catherine Rampell, economics reporter at the New York Times:
|@ crampell : Women gained 32,000 jobs and men gained 48,000 jobs in June.|
The U.S. economists at Bank of America wrote in a research note that they believe that the Federal Reserve will hold off on unleashing a monetary stimulus until September:
The combination of soft job growth and rising wages makes it harder to justify QE.... We believe the Fed needs three conditions to be met to launch QE3: weakening real economy, disinflationary risks (lower inflation breakevens) and deterioration in financial conditions (sell-off in the stock market). The Fed can justify extending the forward guidance to mid-2015 at the next meeting, but we believe they will wait to announce QE3 until September, after the data deteriorates further.
More deterioration -- sounds great.
Leo Hindery, chairman of the Economic Growth/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation, wrote in a statement that when accounting for effectively unemployed people that are not accounted for in the Labor Department's calculation of unemployment -- that is, workers that are underemployed, marginally attached to the workforce, or discouraged -- the number of "real unemployed workers, in all categories, increased by 463,000 workers. By contrast, the economy must add, in real terms, at least 125,000-150,000 new non-farm jobs each month simply to keep up with new entrants into the labor force."
The total number of Real Unemployed Workers now stands at 28.1 million, which is well more than twice BLS's official total unemployed figure of 12.7 million. Total Real Unemployment has increased by 11.5 million workers since the start of the Recession in December 2007 and by 3.6 million since the Inauguration.
The Real Unemployment Rate was 17.3%, which is more than twice BLS’s official rate of 8.2%. (May’s Real Unemployment Rate was 17.1%.)
Millions of youths are finding it extremely difficult to start their careers. The not seasonally adjusted youth unemployment rate for 18- to 29-year-olds in June was 12.8 percent, according to Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit representing young adults. From their statement:
The youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds specifically (NSA) [not seasonally adjusted] for June 2012 is 12.8 percent.
The declining labor participation rate has created an additional 1.735 million young adults that are not counted as “unemployed” by BLS because they are not in the labor force, meaning that those young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs.
If the labor force participation rate were factored into the overall 18-29 youth unemployment calculation, the actual 18-29-unemployment rate would rise to 16.8 percent (NSA).
It is critical that we continue the policies that build an economy that works for the middle class and makes us stronger and more secure as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession. There are no quick fixes to the problems we face that were more than a decade in the making. President Obama has proposals to create jobs by ending tax breaks for companies to ship jobs overseas and supporting State and local governments to prevent layoffs and rehire hundreds of thousands of teachers.... Employment is growing but it is not growing fast enough given the jobs deficit caused by the deep recession.
From Paul Ashworth and Paul Dales, economists at Capital Economics:
Although it is very clear that the US economy has lost a lot of momentum, there are no real indications that it will soon come to a complete standstill or even go into reverse. The latest ISM surveys and various leading indicators are certainly consistent with slower economic growth, but they are not pointing to a period of negative growth. Providing that a break-up of the euro is fairly orderly and that Congress prevents the US from falling off a fiscal cliff, the US is unlikely to drop back into recession.
Here is a chart in Felix Salmon's blog showing how the government has been consistently shedding jobs since 2010. This effectively has been an anti-stimulus.
From Felix Salmon:
Government employment naturally trends upwards, as the population grows and the act of governing becomes increasingly complex. But since January 2009, when Obama took office, total government employment has plunged by 612,000 people. If those people were earning $50,000 each, on average, then that’s more than $30 billion a year in government wages which have been cut.
Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets, noted in a new research note that "3 years into this so-called recovery...these are developments more consistent with the latter stages of an economic cycle. In other words, trends typically exhibited leading into a recession."Don't get too excited about rising earnings either. He wrote that "real earnings are decelerating at rates not seen since the recession. Ultimately, the increase in nominal wages is modest comfort given the fact that job growth is stalling here." He wrote he expects jobs growth to continue to slow.
Justin Wolfers, economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in the Guardian that it is not right that policymakers and pundits have simply accepted Congressmen's "enormous dereliction of duty" as a given:
I'm stunned to report that in both policy and political circles, most commentators take the fact that Congress will do nothing as simply a pre-ordained constraint. That's just not the right framing. In reality, it's an enormous dereliction of duty. Congressional leaders are important economic policy-makers, and they're turning their collective backs on conventional economics. It's cliched, but true: if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention....
When was it that all of us – professional economists, the media, politicians, Fed policy-makers, and the general public – became so inured to unemployment that we stopped talking about how to solve the problems in front of us?
Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, wrote in a blog post that a disproportionate number of new jobs are being given to old people and to men:
It continues to be striking that a disproportionate share of the jobs being created are going to men. This is not due to the comeback of manufacturing and construction. Since December of 2009, manufacturing has added just 496,000 and construction has lost 145,000 jobs. The real story is that men have gotten a hugely disproportionate share of the jobs in industries with more of a gender balance....
Older workers continue to get a disproportionate share of the jobs, with employment of workers over age 55 rising by 169,000 in June, more than the overall increase in employment in the household survey of 128,000. Over the last year, older workers have accounted for 57.9 percent of employment growth.
From Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to President Obama:
Still, I’m inclined to believe that we’ve actually settled into a slower trend, as shown in the figure, and that is really not where we need to be right now.... Today’s report suggests that the downshift looks real, and that’s what should be absorbing policy makers’ time and energy. The labor market is, of course, not nearly the disaster that some partisans will claim today…we’re adding jobs, as has consistently been the case, month-after-month, for a few years now. It’s just that we’re adding them too slowly. Unfortunately, in a hotly contested election year, policy makers are more likely to target each other than to target the job market.
Michael Gapen, an economist at Barclays, wrote the following in a research note to clients:
Given the outturn in construction payrolls, an unchanged participation rate, and the similarity between the three-month moving averages in the household and establishment numbers, we believe the June employment report is a clean reading of where labor market conditions stand at this point in the recovery.... We estimate that about 75-100k jobs a month are needed to keep the unemployment rate steady and this month's numbers are a good indication of the balance between employment growth and the unemployment rate.
Stephen Bronars, senior economist at Welch Consulting, wrote on his blog that the Welch Consulting Employment Index is slightly below its level in June 2009. We have had three years of no progress, then.
The Labor Department notes that a full 31 percent of the net jobs growth in June is due to temporary job growth. From the jobs report:
Professional and business services added 47,000 jobs in June, with temporary help services accounting for 25,000 of the increase.
Joe Weisenthal, deputy editor at Business Insider, notes that the hiring boom by restaurants is a sign that people are willing to spend again: a good economic indicator.
|@ TheStalwart : @bkavoussi yes, but I'm looking at it as a signal of consumer willingness to spend on going out. Ultimate discretionary splurge.|
As middle-class jobs fail to reappear, low-wage jobs in restaurants are booming. Jordan Weissmann, associate editor at The Atlantic, notes that 270,000 food service jobs were added to the economy over the past year:
|@ JHWeissmann : On the bright side, we've added 270,000 food services jobs in the past year. #McJobs #literally|
For some reason, Joe Weisenthal, deputy editor of Business Insider, writes: "This is good. Best jump in food & drinking establishment employment in 3 months."
The average wage of food service workers was $18,130 per year in 2010, according to the Labor Department. Does that still sound good to you?
Austan Goolsbee, economics professor at the University of Chicago and former economic adviser to President Obama, agrees with Goldman Sachs: It's strange that barely any education and health jobs were added to the economy in June.
|@ Austan_Goolsbee : the tiny education and health job number is the weirdest/most notable thing in the job report. why would that drop so much this month?|
Goldman Sachs' economists wrote in their analysis that the latest jobs report "adds to evidence that US growth has slowed." They added that it is surprising that jobs growth in education and health was so anemic:
Employment in education and health also increased by just 2k in June, down from 44k in May. The 12-month average change in this relatively stable series is about 40k, and the June result was therefore a significant surprise.
Matt O'Brien, associate editor at The Atlantic, reminds us that President Obama has a plan to put Americans back to work; he's just not able to implement it:
|@ ObsoleteDogma : Remember when the GOP blocked Obama's jobs bill last fall? Fun times.|
Our democracy may be broken. Jordan Weissmann, associate editor at The Atlantic, writes that complaining to Congress about high unemployment may be no use:
|@ JHWeissmann : @bkavoussi @mccarthyryanj @ObsoleteDogma Bernanke knows better, so enough shouting might help. W/ Congress, you're yelling at an elephant.|
Workers get hurt when corporate profits are at record highs, and they get hurt when corporate profits fall. Robert King, economist at the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center, wrote in a statement to The Huffington Post that since corporate profits have fallen, he expects hiring to get even worse in the second half of the year:
As we move further away from the temporary boosts to employment over the winter from seasonal and weather effects, the underlying trend in job growth is tepid. More ominously, a trend in corporate profits that looks to have decisively rolled over in the first half of the year bodes ill for private hiring in the second half.
From Betsey Stevenson, economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania:
|@ BetseyStevenson : Let's recap: in the last 3 months the private sector has added 274K jobs while govt has subtracted 47K jobs.|
From Betsey Stevenson, economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania:
|@ BetseyStevenson : Why do I look separately at private sector & govt jobs? One is a sign of how the economy is doing & the other is a policy choice.|
From Wall Street Journal economics reporter Timothy Aeppel:
|@ TimAeppel : Wheels remain a bright spot: Transport equip and cars added nearly 14k jobs in June--by far the biggest contributor to mfg job growth.|
|@ mccarthyryanj : I get the outrage at the Fed not doing more about jobs, don't get why we've given up asking politicians to do more|