Stuck in Neutral

Fears of an economic slowdown are real. The nation saw no job growth at all in August – the first month without any net gains in nearly a year. While the US continued to lose public sector jobs – largely at public schools and community colleges – what’s new in today’s report is that private sector jobs increased only modestly. The nation added just 17,000 private sector jobs – about a tenth of the average monthly gain since the beginning of the year. Economists attribute much of this substantial slowdown to diminished consumer spending, which we blogged about last week. In addition, part of the weak private sector gain reflects the fact that 45,000 Verizon workers were on strike in August.

With no net job growth last month, it’s no surprise that many of the unemployed have lost hope that they’ll find work. In August, nearly 2.6 million Americans reported that they wanted to work and were available for employment, but they were not counted as unemployed because they hadn’t searched for work recently. Many of these individuals said that they were too discouraged by limited job openings to continue looking for work. Nationally, even before the slowdown in job growth, the odds of finding employment were slim. In June – the most recent month for which data are available – there were more than four job hunters for every available position. In other words, even if all the job openings were filled, the vast majority of the unemployed would still be out of luck.

August jobs figures for California will be published in two weeks. In the meantime, you can read the CBP’s annual Labor Day report, On the Edge: California’s Workers Still Face the Toughest Job Market in Decades, which we’ll post at this Sunday morning for you die-hard fans who want to learn more about the state of California’s economy before heading out to your Labor Day picnic.

—Alissa Anderson