02-19-2017  3:48 am      •     

WASHINGTON — A weak June jobs report offered the latest evidence that the economic recovery is slowing.
Employers cut 125,000 jobs last month, the most since October, the Labor Department said Friday. The loss was driven by the end of 225,000 temporary census jobs. Businesses added a net total of 83,000 workers, the sixth straight month of private-sector job gains but not enough to speed up the recovery.
Unemployment dropped to 9.5 percent — the lowest level since July 2009 — from 9.7 percent. But the reason for the decline was more than 650,000 people gave up on their job searches and left the labor force. People who are no longer looking for work aren't counted as unemployed.
The latest figures suggest businesses are still slow to hire amid a weak economic recovery. Many economists were hoping to see more private-sector job growth, which would fuel the economy by boosting consumers' ability to spend.
"It could have been worse, but it wasn't good," said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm. "It's adding to the evidence that growth has slowed."
People left the work force "because they think there's nothing out there," he added.
In a separate report, factory orders fell by 1.4 percent in May, the Commerce Department said. It was the first decline after nine months of gains and the biggest drop since March 2009.
The reports follow a slew of data and developments this week that point to slower growth in the months ahead.
In May, home sales plunged and construction spending dropped after a popular homebuyers' tax credit expired on April 30. Consumer confidence has fallen sharply. The European debt crisis has sent U.S. financial markets downward, lowering household wealth. And more than a million jobless Americans have been cut off from unemployment benefits after Congress adjourned for a weeklong Independence Day recess without extending federal aid.
President Barack Obama said the economy is moving in the right direction, but not quickly enough. He seized on the latest data to push for more government stimulus — including the extension of jobless benefits — to aid the recovery.
"We're not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans," Obama said. "We're not headed there fast enough for me, either."
The disappointing jobs report added to investors' concerns about the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 97 points in midday trading.
The unemployment rate and payroll figures can sometimes move in different directions because they are calculated from different surveys. The jobless rate is derived from a survey of households, while the payroll calculation is drawn from a separate survey of businesses.
The nation still has 7.9 million fewer private payroll jobs than it did when the recession began. The private sector has added an average of 98,000 jobs per month since the beginning of the year. At that rate, it would take nearly seven years to regain the jobs lost during the recession.
It takes about 100,000 new jobs a month to keep up with population growth. The economy needs to create jobs at least twice that pace to quickly bring down the jobless rate.
All told, 14.6 million people were looking for work in June. Counting those who have given up their job searches and those who are working part time but would prefer full-time work, the underemployment rate edged down to 16.5 percent from 16.6 percent in May.
Manufacturers, which have been a key source of job growth in the recovery, are hiring fewer people. Factories added 9,000 jobs in June, down from 32,000 in May and the lowest gain this year.
The leisure and hospitality industries, temporary staffing agencies, and education and health services providers also added jobs. Retailers, construction firms and financial service providers cut payrolls.
Private employers added only 33,000 jobs in May, the department said, below an earlier estimate of 41,000. April private-sector payrolls were revised up to show a total gain of 241,000 jobs, higher than the earlier estimate of 218,000.
The Census Bureau added more than 400,000 workers in May to assist with the 2010 employment count, but most of those jobs lasted only six to eight weeks. Economists expect that census layoffs will impact the payroll data for several more months, but not by nearly as much.
The average work week shortened to 34.1 hours from 34.2, the government said, a disappointing drop after three months of gains. Hourly wages also fell by two pennies to $22.53. The declines mean workers earned less money in the last month.
In addition, the drop in hours is a bad sign because employers are likely to cut hours for their current workers before reducing payrolls.
The employment report comes after Congress adjourned Thursday for the weeklong Independence Day recess without extending jobless aid. That has already left 1.3 million people without benefits. Senate Republicans blocked the extension, citing concerns over the federal deficit. That total number of Americans cut off from benefits could grow to 3.3 million by the end of this month if the impasse isn't resolved when Congress returns.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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