Unemployment Rate Rises To 4-Year High

The unemployment rate climbed to a four-year high of 5.7 percent in July, as employers cut 51,000 jobs amid a slumping economy, a Labor Department report showed Friday.

It was the seventh consecutive month of job declines, and the rate was a full percentage point higher than the same period last year.

Modest job gains in government, education and health care were swamped by parts of the economy exposed to the struggling housing market, and the credit and financial industries were hit hardest. Construction alone shed 22,000 jobs, while manufacturers got rid of 35,000 and retailers cut 17,000.

Teenagers looking for summer jobs were hurt the most. Fewer of them were able to find work, the government said, with unemployment for the age group jumping to 20.3 percent, its highest since late 1992.

General Motors, Chrysler, Wachovia Corp., Cox Enterprises Inc. and Pfizer were among the companies that announced job cuts in July.

The number of jobs lost so far this year is 463,000, bringing the total number of unemployed to 8.8 million in July, up from 7.1 million last year. The jobless rate last July stood at 4.7 percent.

There were some positive signs amid the raw data: Average hourly earnings rose to $18.06 in July, a 0.3 percent increase from the previous month. Over the past year, wages have grown 3.4 percent. Even so, the increase has not been able to keep pace with rising inflation, driven mainly by higher food and energy costs.

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