Jobless Rate For June Holds Steady At 7.6 Percent

The Labor Department reported Friday that the nation's unemployment rate held steady at 7.6 percent in June, as employers added 195,000 jobs, and more people started to look for work.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The June jobs report is out, and it came in better than expected. All in all, a strong report even though the unemployment rate didn't budge. It remains at stubbornly high 7.6 percent. And joining us to discuss all of this is NPR's Yuki Noguchi. Good morning.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Tell us why the jobs report for June is so good if it didn't manage to bring down unemployment.

NOGUCHI: It's because of very strong job creation. It's better than expected, as you said. The Labor Department says 195,000 jobs were added in June. Not only that, though. The last two were revised up. So now we've had for the last three months, an average of almost 200,000 jobs a month.

MONTAGNE: You know, we have been told to expect a summer slowdown, but the numbers don't seem to show any evidence of that.

NOGUCHI: Yeah, that's indeed a very big surprise. Automatic government spending cuts that took effect in March, and by now, we were supposed to sort of see the effects of that. But we really haven't seen it in the report and, apparently, in the previous months. There are, of course, job cuts attributed to that, mostly in the defense and aerospace industry. And last month, the federal government cut 5,000 jobs.

So, you know, you're seeing a little bit of cutbacks, but really not at the level we were expect to see.

MONTAGNE: What then is propping up the economy?

NOGUCHI: Well, the stock market has done well this year, as have home prices. Both are up and both contribute to what economists call the wealth effect. Basically that sort of improves peoples' sense of economic well being.

And that's interesting because the other thing that was supposed to be working against the job market was the health care law. And, of course, this week we saw the Obama administration delay by a year this key provision requiring employers with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health insurance. And business groups had been saying that that would affect hiring, but in fact, it hasn't seemed to have. But that does not mean, Renee, that we're in the clear because the effect of the sequester supposed to linger though the fall.

MONTAGNE: In other words, we could still see a slowdown.

NOGUCHI: We could. Yes.

MONTAGNE: One thing that has also been consistent is the fact that long-term unemployment is still a problem. Did this report show any improvement in the numbers there?

NOGUCHI: No. The number of unemployed people didn't change last month and the number of long-term unemployed also didn't change. But, you know, it has been changing over time. So, in the last year, you've seen a million fewer long-term unemployed people. In general, you know, the job growth is chipping away at the jobless issue, but very, very slowly.

And at the same time, you know, the safety net for the long-term unemployed is going away. So not only has the length of the time that a person can get jobless benefit's gone down, the actual amount of each check is going down, too, again, because of the sequester.

There was one other negative in details, and, you know, overall it was a strong report, but the number of people working part-time but who want more hours, that number also went up last month by almost a third of a million.

MONTAGNE: Last question. Which sectors are adding jobs?

NOGUCHI: Well, leisure and hospitality added the most - 75,000 jobs - mostly in restaurants, casino and amusement parks. There's some concern about the quality of the jobs that are being added. You know, those sectors tend to be relatively low-paying and provide less health care coverage for employees. And so, there's some concern that the jobs we are adding aren't ones that are really good ones.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much.

NOGUCHI: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Yuki Noguchi, with the news that the Labor Department says 195,000 jobs were added in June.

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