July Jobs Report: 51,000 Lost

New numbers from the Labor Department show that the U.S. economy lost another 51,000 jobs in July. That's less than the market was expecting, so stock prices are up, but it's the seventh straight month of job losses. That's never happened before without the economy falling into recession.

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DEBORAH AMOS, Host:

The auto industry has been hit hard by the slowing economy, and new numbers out this morning from the Labor Department show that the U.S. economy lost another 51,000 jobs in July. It's the seventh straight month of job losses. That's never happened before without the economy falling into recession. NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD: The jobs report is a big deal because it shows whether all kinds of companies are growing and hiring people or battening down the hatches and laying people off. And so far this year most companies have been doing a fair bit of battening. The unemployment rate is now up to 5.7 percent, the highest it's been in four years. Robert Dye, a senior economist with PNC Financial Services Group...

ROBERT DYE: This is a weak jobs reports. The only good news in this is that it's not as bad as what some were fearing.

ARNOLD: Dye says layoffs in residential home construction are spilling over into commercial construction. Retail stores are also shedding some jobs. Still, the overall job market hasn't completely come apart. The weak dollar is helping some manufacturers. The health care and education sectors remain pretty solid.

DYE: We've been losing jobs at what I would call a moderate pace, not severe. But the longer this goes, my concern is that we're going to lose jobs at an accelerating pace.

ARNOLD: In other words, the problems in the economy will keep snowballing. One bright spot has been those tax rebate checks that the government put in people's pockets. But Dye says...

DYE: We're starting to work our way through the other side of that and there aren't that many supports out there to consumer spending. And the weight that went in - that caused this down cycle, the weights from a weak housing market, the weights from high oil prices, the weights from weak consumer confidence remain in place.

ARNOLD: Like many economists, Dye is predicting a mild recession followed by a pretty weak recovery sometime next year.

Chris Arnold, NPR News.

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