August Jobless Rate at 6.1%

WASHINGTON —The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, down 0.1 percent from the month before.  Businesses claimed to create a net of 142,000 new jobs, a separate survey showed.

Data from BLS’ August survey week showed 9.591 million unemployed, down 80,000 from July. The median time any worker has been jobless – the point where half the jobless have been out longer and half less – was 31.7 weeks.

“The sharp dropoff was due in part to flat employment in manufacturing after two months of healthy growth and a drop in employment of 8,400 in retail,” noted Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, a pro-worker think tank. “Wage growth was little changed.”

The number of long-term jobless dropped by 192,000, to 2.963 million.  They’re still 31.2 percent of all jobless workers.  They’re also workers who, because they’re out six months or more, lost their extended federal jobless benefits last Dec. 28.  Unions, Democratic President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats all campaigned for a further extension.  A Senate GOP filibuster killed that extension.

And the combination of the jobless, those who have become so discouraged they’ve stopped looking and workers who toil part-time when they really want full-time employment still accounts for one in eight workers (12 percent) of the workforce.  It was 12.2 percent in July.

Factories neither gained nor lost jobs, net, in August, leaving 12.158 million factory workers nationwide.  A 4,600-job loss in cars and parts was offset by small gains in nonmetallic mineral jobs and computer manufacturing.  There were 787,000 jobless factory workers in August, or 5 percent of all factory workers.

Construction firms claimed to create 20,000 jobs in August, the height of construction season, to 6.068 million.  Almost half of those (9,200) were with residential specialty trade contractors. That still left 678,000 (7.7 percent) of all construction workers seeking employment.

Construction union leaders say the BLS numbers understate joblessness in their industry, since a worker toiling just on one day during the survey week is counted as employed for the entire month.

Service firms claimed to create 112,000 jobs in August, with the biggest gains in low-paying areas: Temps (+13,000), bars and restaurants (+21,500) and health care (+34,000).

Governments added a net of 8,000 jobs in August, to 21.9 million.  Local governments dumped 4,000 workers and local schools let another 1,400 go, while other governments, including the Postal Service, showed slight gains.

-PAI