The unemployment rate declined from 8.3 percent in July to 8.1 percent in August, with 96,000 jobs added last month, according to data out this morning from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The improvement in the unemployment rate was due to workers dropping out of the labor force, not to an increase in employed workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Jobless rates for adult men stood at 7.6 percent; adult women, 7.3 percent; teenagers, 24.6 percent; white workers, 7.2 percent; African American workers, 14.1 percent; and Hispanics, 10.2 percent—all of these showed little or no change in August.
The percentage of workers who are unemployed, underemployed or have dropped out of the labor force decreased from 15 percent in July to 14.7 percent in August.
The biggest jobs gains came in food and drinking places, with an increase of 29,000 workers; technical and professional services, 27,000; and health care, 17,000.
Although the number of jobs created in August is roughly what the nation needs to keep up with population growth, EPI economist Heidi Shierholz points out that “we need much faster job growth to meaningfully bring the unemployment rate down in a reasonable time frame.”
For example, we’d need to add around 350,000 jobs a month to get back to the pre-recession unemployment rate in three years.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 5 million, and as Shierholz notes, “the persistent high unemployment is holding down wage growth—both hourly and weekly wages saw slight declines in August.”
The slow pace of jobs growth should be a sign—again—for Republicans in Congress to stop blocking legislation aimed to grow our economy. Republicans continue obstructing policies that will create jobs and restore growth while holding the middle class hostage to their demands for more tax cuts to benefit the richest 2 percent of Americans.
We urgently need Congress to take decisive and bold action to create jobs on a scale that will make a difference. Yet Republicans in Congress have voted repeatedly to block key elements of President Obama's American Jobs Act. Sadly, Republican intransigence has not been based on patriotic differences of opinion, but rather a brazen desire to make Obama a one-term president.