The U.S. economy added 96,000 jobs in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, underperforming expectations and representing a significant decrease from a more promising July figure, which was revised downward from 163,000 to 141,000.
The news suggests an ongoing but weak recovery from the economic 2008 economic crisis, and a dire situation for unemployed people looking for work. It comes less than 12 hours after President Obama delivered his marquee address to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, NC — a disappointing development casting a dark cloud over the Democratic party, which this week made a strong, widely hailed case for Obama’s re-election.
Despite weak growth, the unemployment rate fell from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent, a decrease attributable to workers dropping out of the labor market. Overall, the private sector added 103,000 jobs in August, partially offset by 7,000 government job losses.
Despite the low top line figure, the initial estimate contains a high degree of uncertainty, and the report is consistent with payroll data going back months, suggesting moderate economic growth, and a recovery too sluggish to rapidly improve the country’s weak employment situation.
The struggling labor market — illustrated by weak job growth, a shrinking civilian labor force and a decreasing labor force participation rate — increase expectations that the Federal Reserve will provide some juice to the economy with a new round of asset purchases (so-called “quantitative easing”) when the Fed’s open market committee meets next week.
BLS also revised June’s payroll figures down from 64,000 to 45,000.
Per political ritual, Democrats heralded slow but continued private sector growth, and, despite negative underlying connotations, the lower unemployment rate. Republicans continue to use persistently high unemployment and slow growth to argue Obama should be defeated in November.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.