June swoon: Economy added almost no jobs last month

The economy added so few jobs last month that the government calls the employment situation "essentially unchanged" from May. The news comes as a shock, after recent positive signs had led economists to predict a solid rise, and starkly underlines the trend set in other recent economic numbers: The recovery is struggling for any traction at all.

Payrolls increased by just 18,000 in June, the Labor Department said in its monthly jobs report, released this morning. That's even fewer than May's anemic total, which in today's report was revised from 54,000 down to 25,000.

Economists had expected that June would see a modest bounce back, with most forecasting yesterday that the report would show a gain of between 90,000 and 125,000 jobs.

The overall unemployment figure ticked up slightly to 9.2 percent, from 9.1 percent. There are now 14.1 million Americans officially counted as unemployed. Millions more are out of work but don't show up in the numbers, after they'd grown discouraged and stopped looking for a job.

As in May, the loss of government jobs was the key factor in the anemic performance. The number of public-sector jobs declined by 39,000, amid cuts by local and state governments. And the private-sector produced just 57,000 jobs. A survey of private employers released yesterday had found 157,000 new private-sector jobs, raising optimism that today's numbers would be far higher.

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