Unemployment continued to wreak havoc in June, with the economy losing still more jobs as the government laid off workers hired for the U.S. Census.
The U.S. economy lost 125,000 jobs in June, though the unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent, the Labor Department reported today. The numbers were worse than the 110,000-job loss economists had predicted in a Reuters survey. But the loss is not as sharp as it sounds, since 225,000 of those were Census jobs that temporarily distorted the reading. Private employers actually added 83,000 workers in June.
With today's numbers, 7.5 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of the recession more than two years ago. Prior to June, the economy had seen five straight months of jobs growth.
In remarks today from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, President Obama announced 66 new stimulus-funded infrastructure projects to provide broadband Internet access across the country. The projects, he said, will create 5,000 new jobs in construction and installation. Studies have shown, the president said, that the adoption of broadband access can lead to hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
Obama noted that June marked the sixth straight month of growth in private sector jobs. The country, he said, is "headed in the right direction" but "we're not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans. We're not headed there fast enough for me either."
"The recession dug us a hole of about 8 million jobs deep, and we continue to fight headwinds from volatile global markets, so we still have a great deal of work to do to repair the economy and get the American people back to work," Obama said.
Millions of unemployed didn't need the numbers to remind them of their hardship. Especially the long-term jobless, who have been out of work for more than six months, are painfully aware that the economic recovery remains fragile.
"It's pretty frightening," says Jim Walloch, a former medical sales manager and single father of three, who lost his job 18 months ago and has spent almost $100,000 in savings to keep his family afloat. His subsidized COBRA health insurance ran out this week, and Walloch is considering whether to add another $2,000 to his monthly outflows to sign up for new insurance.
The data offered little hope for those like Walloch, who have been out of work for more than six months and fall into the "long-term unemployed" category. Almost 6.7 million Americans have been out of work longer than six months, with more than half -- 4.7 million -- jobless for more than a year, according to the U.S. Labor Department, the higest level since the government began tracking numbers in 1948.
Walloch, like others sharing his fate, doesn't have much patience for the political debate in Washington over whether benefits for the long-term unemployed should be extended. For the past eight weeks Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has fought to extend the benefits after they lapsed on June 2, for workers who have run out of their standard 26 weeks of checks. Republicans have opposed the measure, reluctant to throw another $33.9 billion – the price-tag for the bill – into the deficit.