Economy Loses 131,000 Jobs

Nonfarm payrolls fell by 131,000 last month, according to a Labor Department report released Friday morning, marking a second straight month of losses.
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WASHINGTON (

TheStreet

) -- At first glance, employers appeared to shed a disappointing number of workers in July, due to the continued and expected disappearance of census workers from government payrolls.

And while private sector employers added a modest number of workers during that period, the final was below market expectations, suggesting that hiring remains tepid and sluggish as the summer plods along.

Overall, nonfarm payrolls fell by a seasonally adjusted 131,000 last month, according to a Labor Department report released Friday morning, marking a second straight month of losses. During that time, the government continued laying off workers tied to the decennial census as that work ebbed. The government lost 143,000 census positions in July.

Investors had expected nonfarm payrolls to lose a total of 87,000 positions last month, according to consensus projections provided by Briefing.com.

In June, the economy broadly lost 221,000 jobs. That tally was revised lower to reflect an even steeper drop in government payrolls and a smaller jump in private hiring. The Labor Department originally reported a loss of 125,000.

Despite the drop in the report's headline figure, though, private sector employers managed to add a few more bodies to their payrolls, as that segment rose by 71,000. Still, the effort fell below expectations, as projections had called for the private ranks to add 83,000 jobs.

The nation's unemployment rate was unmoved at 9.5%.

While the lasting impression of the full report only highlights the difficult hiring environment, details within offered a mixed assessment of the total state of the things.

The manufacturing sector, whose growth has helped lead the economic recovery, added 36,000 jobs in July. A seeming bright spot, to be sure, though the report also said the car industry made fewer seasonal layoffs, which in turn helped boost numbers there after including seasonal adjustments.

Still, 27,000 health care-related jobs were added to the economy in July, along with 12,000 transportation and warehousing positions and 7,000 mining jobs.

And after losing more than 20,000 jobs in June, the retail sector managed to eke out a subtle gain of 6,700 jobs.

Average hourly earnings also improved in July, edging higher by 0.2%, to $22.59, while the average workweek extended by a tenth of an hour to 34.2 hours.

On the other hand, the construction sector lost another 11,000 jobs, and financial services employers shed 17,000 positions last month. Temporary help positions, which are seen as an subtle indicator of future full-time employment, dropped by 5,600 after tracking higher by over 11,000 the month before.

But the heftiest declines were found in the government ranks, which shed 202,000 positions led by the sharp drop in census positions. But state and local governments also pink-slipped more workers in July, as headlines continue to swirl about struggling state and local budgets.

Much has been made about the number of long-term unemployed, whose ranks have swelled and stayed that way since the depths of the recession. In July, those numbers were little changed, as the number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or more stood at 6.6 million, making up nearly half of all workers without a job.

Meanwhile, the so-called "real" unemployment rate, which also includes part-timers in search of more gainful positions and those who gave up looking all together, managed to hold steady at 16.5%.

Stocks were trading modestly weaker after the report in the morning, as the

Dow

was off 35 points, or 0.3%, at 10,640, and the

S&P 500

was falling 5 points, or 0.5%, at 1121.

--Written by Sung Moss in New York