It looks like deja vu all over again.
The monthly Employment Situation report released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed little growth over May, the latest in a string of disappointing monthly reports from the government agency. The addition of 80,000 jobs to the U.S. economy in June and the stagnant month-over-month unemployment rate of 8.2% illustrates the continuation of a sluggish recovery following what looked like explosive growth in the first quarter.
"It looks like 2011," said Betsey Stevenson, assistant professor of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. "Despite having had some promise earlier in the year that the recovery is picking up momentum, it looks like we are slugging along."
Job seekers should take heart in the relatively strong growth in private sector jobs, in contrast to that of state and local governments, which have been laying off employees as tax revenues fall. The BLS report for June missed a forecasted gain of 100,000 jobs and contrasted with brighter numbers Thursday from Automatic Data Processing, Inc., which indicated the addition of 176,000 private-sector jobs.
Job seekers should take heart in the growth of private sector employment”
"If you look at the last three months, the private sector does look stronger," Stevenson said. Private businesses added 85,000 jobs in April, 105,000 in May and 84,000 in June, she noted. Those numbers were offset by losses in government jobs. "The private sector is taking many steps forward, while the government is setting them back."
Slow Pace of Growth
The economy has been adding jobs for 28 straight months, Stevenson said, albeit at a very slow pace. "It is frustrating for everybody," she said. "It does add up to millions and millions of jobs added, it's just happening at a painfully slow pace."
The clear message for job seekers: Government isn't the place to look for work. Many other industries are hiring, however. Skilled workers are particularly in demand. For people over 25 years old with a college degree, the unemployment rate is just 4.1%, said John Landers, a regional vice president with staffing firm Robert Half International.
"It's a tale of two different job markets," Landers said. "The skilled, specialized market, and the more general market," which includes areas like manufacturing and construction.
"It's still a very competitive market for those who are looking for work," said Landers.
Sentiment among job seekers indicates a sense of stability. According to Glassdoor.com's quarterly Employment Confidence Survey, which surveys over 2,000 U.S. adults about job security, salary expectations, company outlook and rehire probability, only 10% of workers believe their company's outlook will worsen throughout the next six months, while 45% believe business will improve, and another 45% believe it will stay the same.
For those out of work, optimism continues to climb. Forty-two percent of the unemployed surveyed by Glassdoor believe they can find a job in the next six months, six percentage points more than during the first quarter of this year and the highest measure since the first quarter of 2009. Only 22% of unemployed people aged 18 to 34 believe that it's "unlikely" they'll find work in the next six months. Among out-of-work people aged 55 and older, 41% believe it's unlikely they will be able to find a job matching their experience and compensation levels before the end of the year, down from 47% in the first quarter.
"The optimism for the employed has stayed stable," said Rusty Rueff, the career and workplace expert with Glassdoor. "But the better news, that could actually be a good sign going forward, is that the two groups that feel the hardest hit--the unemployed and older workers--are most optimistic this quarter."
The mood of workers isn't driven by broad economic reports from the BLS, but by the absence of layoff announcements and tales they hear from friends. "Stability can lead to confidence and what you're seeing is the beginning of stability," said Rueff. "The ups and downs aren't as wild as they were, and your heart rate doesn't go up and down as much on the kiddie roller coaster."
Write to Kelly Eggers at Kelly.Eggers@dowjones.com