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Sep 6, 2013

There’s discouraging news on the employment front as the U.S. government says only 169,000 jobs were added in August.

Although lower than what most surveys of economists were expecting, the number itself wasn’t so far off this year’s revised monthly average of 182,000 new jobs to be called disappointing. August is one of the slower months for hiring.

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics knocked down its numbers for June and July by a combined 74,000 jobs. July alone was slashed 58,000; the 104,000 jobs was the smallest gain since June 2012.

Participation rate the lowest since 1978

Surveys before Friday’s release of the August employment  numbers predicted the economy added somewhere between 170,000 and 175,000 jobs.

The Bureau also reported that so many people gave up looking for work last month that the unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent. The so-called labor force participation rate fell to 63.2 percent, the lowest since 1978. Economists were expecting no change in unemployment.

Econ-indices-Aug-2013As unexpected as this morning’s news was, other reports out this week have been more upbeat. Consumer confidence as measured by The Conference Board is at one of the highest points in years. SHRM’s LINE report predicts September’s hiring will be above where it was last year.

Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said the economy is expanding — modestly, but steadily — strengthened by spending on cars and houses. Travel and tourism were also contributors.

The Fed’s “beige book” summarizes economic conditions in the 12 districts. The recent report said 11 districts reported modest to moderate economic growth. Chicago’s picture was “improving.”

Most of the district’s also said hiring was steady across most industries and occupations. One of the strongest areas was in the IT, where nearly all the districts reported significant demand. The Boston and Richmond districts, which each include high-tech areas, said there was a noticeable increase in the number of temp-to-perm conversions.

Lots of retail, health care jobs added in August

Temp employment has been one of the strongest growth areas since the recovery began. The August jobs report says 13,100 workers were added to the payroll of staffing firms during the month, bringing the total to 2.716 million.

Other big gainers during the month:

  • Retail was the biggest gainer, adding 44,000 jobs. Food and beverage stores added 11,700 jobs; clothing and clothing accessories stores added 13,700 workers.
  • Health care came in at +32,700 jobs, with most of the growth in ambulatory health services;
  • The leisure and hospitality sector hit +27,000, most of it (21,200) in restaurants and bars.
  • Professional and technical services, which covers a broad group of industries and occupations including accounting (+2,400), law (+2,700), and computer systems and design (+2,400), added 10,900 jobs.
  • Manufacturing was up by 14,000 jobs.
  • Government grew by 17,000 jobs, all of it coming from local education.

There were no real big losers except for the motion picture industry which lost 22,200 jobs. Construction neither added nor gained.

The numbers of the unemployed remained at 11.3 million while those working part-time because they can’t find other work declined by 334,000 to 7.9 million. When these part timers and those considered discouraged, but still looking, are added to the total count of the officially unemployed, the seasonally adjusted rate is 13.7 percent.

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