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Jobs Rise by 117,000

But news is mixed for older workers, who remain unemployed longer

Unemployment, by state

Despite the jobs gain, unemployment remained stubbornly high — 13.9 million people remained out of work in July. Of them, 6.2 million (44 percent) had been unemployed for six months or more.

The unemployment rate varies state to state. To see how your state has fared, look at the "pain index" map.

Heidi Shierholz, a labor market economist with the Economic Policy Institute, says she's concerned that the latest economic indicators are "very weak." She cited a recent government report that the economy grew by less than 1 percent in the last six months.

"We're either headed into another recession … or we are just going to stumble along at low levels of job growth and high levels of unemployment," Shierholz says. "There's nothing resembling robust jobs growth anytime soon.

"We need more fiscal support from the federal government, and Washington is going in the opposite direction," she says. "Cutting spending will make this jobs situation worse."

Republican leaders in Washington counter that bringing government spending under control and reducing the deficit will help give private employers more faith in the future and lead them to begin hiring in big numbers.

Obama: 'Focus on jobs'

President Obama has urged his administration to redouble efforts to create jobs and boost the economy, now that the recent debt ceiling drama is behind him. He has expressed support for continuing the 2 percent payroll tax cut for workers and extending emergency unemployment benefits — both programs are slated to expire at the end of this year — as well as investing in more infrastructure projects.

Obama told his Cabinet Wednesday to "focus on what matters most to the American people, and that is, how are we going to put people back to work?"

A spokesman says the president will hit the road in a campaign-style bus tour through the Midwest between Aug. 15 and 17 to listen to people's concerns about jobs and the economy.

The number of people who applied for first-time unemployment benefits last week fell by 1,000 to 400,000, a government report said. Economists look for initial claims of under 400,000 as a signal the economy is improving.

The average over the last four weeks, considered a more accurate gauge of employment trends, declined by 6,750 from the previous four-week period to 407,750, the lowest level since mid-April.

Next: Are employers more likely to hire workers? >>

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