Jobs numbers conceal real unemployment and underemployment rate of 7.2%
Job applicants line up at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood during a job fair in Hollywood, Fla. Official numbers suggest a low unemployment rate, but taking into account the underemployed and those who've dropped out of the labor market, the rate soars to 7.2%. | Wilfredo Lee / AP

WASHINGTON (PAI)—The U.S. unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 3.7% in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. A separate survey said employers created 130,000 new jobs—but 25,000, or almost 20% of them, were temps whom the U.S. Census Bureau hired as it revs up for next year’s nationwide decennial headcount.

“These are temp jobs, so this isn’t a very strong employment report,” AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs said. Private-sector employers claimed to add 96,000 jobs.

BLS said there were 6.044 million unemployed people in August, 19,000 fewer than in July. But it also reported that if you add together the unemployed, those toiling part-time when they really want full-time work, and those so discouraged they’ve stopped looking, one of every 14 workers (7.2%) is unemployed or underemployed.

And even people with jobs saw their pay barely match inflation, BLS said. It had been rising at close to a 4% annual rate for several months, reflecting the tight job market. The August increase? 3.2%.

Factories added 3,000 jobs in August, to 12.853 million. The biggest of the few gainers: Plastics and rubber products (+3,400). That still left 512,000 factory workers (3.2%) jobless. The growth in manufacturing continues to slow, suggesting tougher times ahead for the economy as a whole.

Construction companies added only 14,000 jobs, at the height of construction season. Half the new jobs were in building houses. There were 7.514 million employed construction workers, and 361,000 jobless ones (3.6%).

Construction union leaders note official jobless data understates unemployment in their industry, where workers move from project to project. They’re counted as employed for the whole month if they toil at work at any time during the BLS survey week, even if just for a day.

Besides the census hiring, government gained few jobs in August. Local schools added 6,500 jobs, gearing up for the new school year, but other segments of state and local government showed little change.


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Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.

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