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August Unemployment Reaches 9.7 Percent, Highest Since 1983

The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent in August, the highest rate since June 1983, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, but the number of jobs eliminated was less than the previous month. Employers cut 216,000 jobs, fewer than the revised total of 276,000 for July; the economy has lost 7.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Most economists surveyed expected the rate to rise to 9.5 percent and reductions to total 225,000. The Associated Press (AP) says the "underemployment" rate -- laid-off workers who have settled for part-time work or who have given up looking for work -- reached 16.8 percent, the highest number on records dating to 1994. Manufacturing employment continued to trend downward, with 63,000 jobs lost, including 15,000 within motor vehicle and parts manufacturing. In other sectors, construction declined by 65,000; professional and business services by 46,000; financial services by 28,000; wholesale trade by 17,000; and mining by 9,000. Healthcare employment added 28,000 jobs; the sector has added 544,000 jobs since the recession began. In spite of recent signs that the economy is turning around, most economists still expect the unemployment rate to reach 10 percent before the end of the year or early next year. "The job market is in for a slog," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's, quoted in The New York Times. "It's going to be a slow, incremental improvement, and it's the reason why the broader recovery is going to be very fragile." Labor will release the figures for September on October 2.

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