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Unemployment Holds Steady

Flat Jobless Rate Signals Stuck Economy

For older workers, “things could have been worse”

On average, older workers had been looking for employment for 40.6 weeks in July, unchanged from June. The proportion who had been jobless for 27 weeks or more was 53 percent, down half a percentage point from the previous month.

There was little change in the number of older discouraged workers who had given up on job-hunting or those who were working part-time involuntarily.

Slight growth in private sector

Overall, July did bring a third straight month of anemic job growth in the private sector, where employers added 71,000 jobs. So far this year, the private sector has added 630,000 jobs, with the bulk of the gain coming in March and April.

But July’s private-sector gains were more than offset by declines in government employment, which fell by 202,000. The departure of 143,000 temporary census workers was largely to blame.

Only two more employment reports will be released before the Nov. 2 elections, when the entire U.S. House membership and a third of Senate seats are at stake. Persistent high unemployment is cited as the main reasons voters are in a generally sour mood, and Democratic majorities in both chambers are seen as being at risk.

White House response

The White House tried to put a positive spin on Friday’s report. Christina Romer, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, noted that July marked the seventh straight month of private-sector job gains. Despite the drop in overall employment, Romer said, “We have made substantial progress from the days when employment was declining by 750,000 a month.”

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement that the jobs report “confirms that President Obama’s economic policies have failed to create sustainable job growth. For the millions of Americans who are unable to find work, this White House’s empty cheerleading rings hollow. President Obama has been more focused on growing government than growing jobs, and it shows.”

Art Dalglish is an editor and writer based in Maryland.

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