The jobless rate increased by a tiny tick in August even though the private sector grew by 67,000 new jobs. President Obama called the growth "positive news," though "not nearly good enough."
The Labor Department
said the jobless rate was virtually unchanged, rising from 9.5 percent, where it's been stuck since June, to 9.6 percent, in part because more temporary Census positions vanished and half a million "discouraged workers" resumed job searches. When the unemployed stop looking, they're removed from the jobless rolls.
The number of unemployed, 14.9 million, was "little changed" from July, the government said, but it included some 114,000 who lost their jobs as Census workers.
Obama urged Congress to approve legislation offering tax incentives and loan assistance programs for small businesses -- and he said he would outline a "broader package of ideas" for the economy next week.
"We need to take further steps to create jobs and keep the economy growing, including extending tax cuts for the middle class and investing in the areas of our economy where the potential for job growth is greatest," he said. "In the weeks ahead, I'll be discussing these ideas in more detail." The key point, he told reporters, "is that the economy is moving in a positive direction. Jobs are being created. They're just not being created as fast as they need to, given the big hole that we experienced."
Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said the August report was "better than expected," as it showed an eighth consecutive month of private sector job growth. It's not enough to bring the rate down quickly, Romer said, but "today's numbers are reassuring that growth and recovery are continuing."
Word of the stubborn unemployment figures came at the close of a week that brought mildly encouraging economic news. First-time claims for jobless benefits fell slightly last week, retail sales grew last month, and contracts to buy homes went up by more than 5 percent in July. In addition, the Labor Department revised the July numbers for new jobs upward to 107,000.