July Jobless Rate Steady, Creation Sputters

August 2, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The ranks of jobless Americans didn't grow during July, but the vaunted US job-creation machine nearly ground to a halt.

The Department of Labor said just 6,000 new positions were created in July, while the nation’s unemployment rate held steady at 5.9%, as new service industry jobs tempered construction and manufacturing layoffs.

Weaker Work Week

Meanwhile, the average workweek declined to 34 hours last month from 34.3 in June – lowest since a matching number last October in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.  Factory overtime fell to an average 4.1 hours in July from 4.3 a month earlier, though the impact of the July 4 holiday may have had an impact.

In a separate report Friday, the Commerce Department said that consumers continued to spend in June, registering a 0.5% increase, while incomes, which include wages, interest and government benefits, grew by 0.6% – the strongest pace in two years – on top of a 0.4% increase in May.  Those numbers were largely in line with analysts’ expectations.

Unemployment “Numbers”

According to the DoL, the jobless rate included:

  • adult men, 5.2%
  • adult women, 5.2%
  • teenagers, 17.7%
  • whites, 5.3%
  • blacks, 9.9%
  • hispanics, 7.6%

DoL reported that the jobs market continues to sputter despite signs earlier this year that the economy might be turning around. With an eagle eye cast toward the continuing stream of accounting debacles and their effects on the economy, hiring managers weren’t exactly rushing to bring in new workers during the month. 

Expectation Shortfall

July’s job total came in far below Wall Street economists’ expectations for a 69,000-job rise, while the June jobs gain was revised up to 66,000 from the 36,000 reported a month ago (see Unemployment Picture Muddies in June ).

There were, however, some encouraging signs.  The number of US jobs has been essentially unchanged during the past five months and the unemployment rate has remained within a narrow 5.8% to 6% range since April. More significantly, long-term unemployment of 15 weeks or longer edged down in July after rising continuously during the previous 13 months.