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Just 96,000 Jobs Added To Payrolls; Unemployment Rate Dips To 8.1 Percent

At a job fair in San Diego this week, Navy Sailor E-5 Cedric Washington spoke to Sim Garriotti from Lockheed Martin while interviewing for a potential position.
Sandy Huffaker
Getty Images
At a job fair in San Diego this week, Navy Sailor E-5 Cedric Washington spoke to Sim Garriotti from Lockheed Martin while interviewing for a potential position.

The number of jobs on private and public payrolls grew by just 96,000 in August from July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said this morning.

Meanwhile, the nation's unemployment rate edged down to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent the month before. Often, the jobless rate dips even when employment growth is weak because the size of the labor force shrank as many Americans gave up looking for work.

It's a report that will surely add to the presidential campaign rhetoric.

We'll have more from the report shortly, so hit your "refresh" button to see our latest updates.

Update at 9:50 a.m. ET. White House Says Report Is Evidence Of Recovery:

"While there is more work that remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression," writes the president's top economic adviser, Alan Krueger, on the White House blog. He also focuses on the section of the BLS report that shows "private sector establishments added 103,000 jobs last month, and overall non-farm payroll employment rose by 96,000. The economy has now added private sector jobs for 30 straight months, for a total of 4.6 million jobs during that period."

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET. What Will Stocks Do?

There was a big rally Thursday on Wall Street, partly in anticipation of what some thought would be a good news on the jobs front. So will stocks tank today? USA Today's John Waggonner says maybe not, because "until the economy starts creating more jobs, the Fed is going to be fighting to keep interest rates low — and that's good for stocks." The Wall Street Journal also says today's report makes it more likely the Fed will try to give the economy a boost.

And at the start of trading, stocks appear to be holding steady.

So, in the sometimes bizarro world of Wall Street, bad news = good news.

Update at 9:10 a.m. ET. Big Decline In Labor Force:

There were 368,000 fewer people counted as being part of the labor force in August than in July, BLS says. That largely accounts for the drop in the official unemployment rate.

Among the reasons for that decline was an increase in those considered to be "marginally attached to the labor force." According to BLS, "these individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey."

Update at 9:06 a.m. ET. "We Aren't Better Off," Romney Says:

"If last night was the party, this morning is the hangover," Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney says in a statement just emailed to reporters by his campaign. He adds that:

"For every net new job created, nearly four Americans gave up looking for work entirely. This is more of the same for middle class families who are suffering through the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. After 43 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent, it is clear that President Obama just hasn't lived up to his promises and his policies haven't worked. We aren't better off than they were four years ago. My plan for a stronger middle class will create 12 million new jobs by the end of my first term. America deserves new leadership that will get our economy moving again."

Update at 9:05 a.m. ET. Where The Jobs Were:

Food services and drinking places: Up by 28,000.

Professional and technical services: Up by 27,000.

Health care: Up by 17,000.

Computer systems design and related services: Up by 11,000.

Manufacturing: Down by 15,000.

Update at 9 a.m. ET. Average Monthly Gain Is Down:

"Since the beginning of this year," BLS says, "employment growth has averaged 139,000 per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011."

It adds that "in August, employment rose in food services and drinking places, in professional and technical services, and in health care."

Update at 8:55 a.m. ET. Could Overshadow Obama's Convention Speech:

The Associated Press calls the 96,000-gain in jobs "a weak figure that could slow any momentum President Barack Obama hoped to gain from his speech to the Democratic National Convention."

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Obama Deserves An "F," GOP Chairman Says:

"Time is up, Mr. President," tweets Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. "More of the same is not good enough. This isn't an incomplete, it's an F."

Update at 8:45 a.m. ET. Stuck Above 8 Percent:

The nation's jobless rate has been above 8 percent since February 2009. Its recent peak was 10 percent, in October 2009, and it has now touched 8.1 percent twice (the other time, in April this year). Republicans and GOP nominee Mitt Romney will surely focus on how the rate has remained high through President Obama's first term. Democrats and the White House will say again that President Obama inherited an economic crisis and that more time is needed to fully recover.

Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. July Job Growth Revised Downward:

BLS now says that 141,000 jobs were added to payrolls in July. That's down from the agency's preliminary estimate of a 163,000-gain.

Our original post — "High Unemployment & Slow Job Growth: Likely News From Today's Report":

Expect to hear this morning that employers added 125,000 to 130,000 jobs to their payrolls in August and that the nation's unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent, economists tell Reuters and Bloomberg News.

The takeaway from such numbers would be that job growth remains sluggish and unemployment remains high. In other words, more of the same.

Yes, it's time again for the monthly numbers that hit home for most Americans when they think about how the economy is doing. They're also the numbers that get talked about most on the campaign trail and could have a big impact on who gets elected president in November.

Our colleagues over at Planet Money have posted a look at "Jobs In America, In 2 Graphs." As they write:

"Three years into the recovery, the U.S. jobs picture is still bleak. There are 4.8 million fewer jobs today than there were in January 2008, the month when employment peaked. But ... the story becomes more nuanced when you look across different sectors of the economy."

The BLS report is due at 8:30 a.m. ET. We'll update this post after the news is out and follow the analyses and reactions.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.