The nation’s unemployment rate fell from 8.3% to 8.1%, according to Labor Department data released Friday, but there are several reasons why nobody was celebrating a jobs comeback.
The key reason is that only 96,000 jobs were created in July, compared with an average of 139,000 per month since the beginning of the year. In 2011 the average monthly gain was 153,000.
Other considerations gave the data a disappointing hue.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics employment situation summary table showed 368,000 fewer people in the “Civilian labor force,” as many people stopped looking for jobs. This adjustment lowered the unemployment rate, even though the total number of employed people declined in August to 142,101,000, compared with 142,220,000 people with jobs in July.
The employment-population ratio in August was 58.3%, which was down from 58.4% in July and 58.6% in June. In fact, August’s employment-population ratio was the same as August 2011, when the official unemployment rate was all the way up at 9.1%.
More bad news from the August data released Sept. 7 is the downward revisions of June and July reports. The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised from plus-64,000 to plus-45,000, and the change for July was revised from plus-163,000 to plus-141,000.