- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2012

The job market eked out another month of modest gains in June as a major slowdown engulfed the U.S. economy. Unemployment was unchanged at 8.2 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday morning.

Businesses added another 80,000 jobs in sectors from manufacturing and health care to technology and temporary staff — about the same pace of growth seen in April and May. The rate of monthly job growth dropped sharply during the second quarter to 75,000 from the robust pace of 226,000 set in the first quarter of the year.

“Another month of worryingly weak job creation,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit. He noted that the unemployment rate appears “stuck” at 8.2 percent — the same level seen in Britain, which fell back into recession this year.

Unemployment in the U.S. is down from 9.1 percent a year ago and is far below the 11.1 percent rate seen in Europe, where a major debt crisis has crippled growth. But it remains uncomfortably elevated above what Americans consider normal levels in the 5 percent to 6 percent range.

“Much of this can be attributed to the eurozone debt crisis, which is clearly having a growing impact on business sentiment around the world,” Mr. Williamson said.

Guillermo Felices, analyst at Barclays Capital, noted that “U.S. growth prospects stood up relative to other developed countries” earlier this year when the expansion appeared to be hitting its stride. “Now that view is being challenged” as the U.S. succumbs to the global economic slump emanating from Europe, China and elsewhere, he said.

The job scene portrayed by the Labor Department appeared to be mostly static last month as businesses reacted to troubling developments in Europe and turmoil in the U.S. stock market by waiting — holding back from major new activities or hiring drives.

Adding a measure of stability to the job market, fewer layoffs occurred in government, with only 4,000 jobs pared compared with 28.000 government job losses in May.

Average hourly earnings inched ahead by 6 cents to $23.50, enabling the yearly rate of growth to pick up slightly to 2 percent. Weekly hours also rose mildly by 0.1 hour to 33.8 hours.

With such tepid wage gains, “consumers spending will continue to go forward at a modest, at best, pace,” said John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities. Overall, the economy appeared to be growing at a “subpar” rate of around 1.5 percent in the second quarter, he said.

The latest news from the job market comes as President Obama hits the campaign trail reminding voters of the dark days of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009 when the auto industry was in bankruptcy and businesses were cutting jobs by hundreds of thousands each month. Since the recession, auto manufacturing has been a bright spot, adding thousands of jobs, including 6,700 last month.

But Republicans called the jobs report “disappointing,” and highlighted the economy’s lackluster performance this spring.

“The private sector clearly isn’t ‘doing fine,’” as Mr. Obama once suggested, said House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican. He contended that “President Obama’s policies have failed.”