US unemployment rate 9.7 pct as 216,000 jobs lost

WASHINGTON — The US unemployment rate jumped to 9.7 percent in August as 216,000 jobs were lost, the government said Friday in a report showing improving labor market conditions.

The jobless rate rose three-tenths of a point to the highest since June 1983, but the data nonetheless showed an easing of the massive pace of job losses in an economy struggling to emerge from recession.

The Labor Department report, seen as one of the best indicators of economic momentum, showed job losses narrowed considerably. Revised rate showed 276,000 jobs lost in July and 463,000 in June, higher than prior estimates of 247,00 and 443,000, respectively.

The consensus expectation was for 230,000 job losses and an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent in August.

The civilian labor force rose by 73,000 in August, suggesting more people are returning to the workforce to seek employment in anticipation of better conditions.

The US economy shrank at a 1.0 percent annual pace in the second quarter, reflecting an easing of the deep recession that led to a 6.4 percent pace of decline in the first quarter.

Many economists expect the world's biggest economy to show growth in the current quarter although difficult labor market conditions could crimp consumer spending and dampen any recovery.

The Labor Department's August data showed a loss of 136,000 jobs in the goods-producing sectors including 63,000 in manufacturing and 65,000 in construction.

The services sector shed 80,000 jobs including 10,000 in retail.

The only segment showing growth was education and health care, with 52,000 jobs added.

The average workweek in the private sector, sometimes seen as a proxy for economic activity, was unchanged at 33.1 hours.


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