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Unemployment Holds Steady

Flat Jobless Rate Signals Stuck Economy

For older workers, “things could have been worse”

The U.S. job market remained in the doldrums last month, as modest hiring by the private sector was more than offset by an exodus of federal census workers. Overall, the economy shed an additional 131,000 jobs.

The July unemployment report released Friday by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics was a virtual echo of June’s figures. It offered a snapshot of an economy stuck in neutral ahead of November elections that could reshape Congress.

For jobless and underemployed workers hoping for signs of a hiring thaw, the bureau’s report offered only disappointment. It listed several key indicators as “unchanged,” “essentially unchanged” or showing “little or no change.”

  • The national unemployment rate remained at 9.5 percent. Rates for most age, gender and ethnic groups barely budged—but they rose for both men and women age 55 or older.
  • The number of unemployed persons stayed at 14.6 million.
  • The number of long-term unemployed, those out of a job for at least 27 weeks, edged down to 6.6 million. These individuals still made up 44.9 percent of the jobless ranks.
  • The number of people working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time jobs remained essentially unchanged at 8.5 million. Another 2.6 million unemployed people, classified as “marginally attached to the labor force” by the bureau, had not looked for work in the previous month. When these were added to the total of people unemployed, the so-called underemployment rate was unchanged at 16.5 percent.

And if July’s figures weren’t gloomy enough, the bureau lowered its earlier estimates of private payrolls in May and June by a total of 34,000.

The situation for older workers

The employment picture for older people “could hardly be called robust in July,” said Sara Rix, a senior strategic policy adviser at AARP. “However, things could have been worse, as they have been for much of the past two and a half years.

“Key employment indicators showed little improvement or deterioration over the month. Duration of unemployment figures highlight the continued difficulty older jobseekers face in finding work. Nonetheless, more older persons were employed in July than in June. This was not the case for the workforce as a whole.”

The unemployment rate for men age 55 or older rose to 7.7 percent, from 7.5 percent in June. The rate for women in that age group also rose, to 6.9 percent from 6.5 percent in June.

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