August Unemployment Report Shows Continuing Stagnation

By Matt Cover | September 7, 2012 | 1:00 PM EDT

In this Aug. 22, 2012 file photo, Scott Marshall, top, of Calhoun, Ga., files for unemployment, in Dalton, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

( The August unemployment report showed a labor market that has made virtually no progress all year, with the unemployment rate declining by 0.2 points to 8.1 percent as thousands of Americans gave up looking for work.

“The unemployment rate edged down in August to 8.1 percent. Since the beginning of this year, the rate has held in a narrow range of 8.1 to 8.3 percent. The number of unemployed persons, at 12.5 million, was little changed in August,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday.

Despite a positive job creation number of 94,000 in August, major employment indicators remained basically unchanged.

Unemployment rates for men, women, teens, whites, blacks, and Hispanics all “showed little or no change in August,” according to BLS. Likewise, the number of long-term unemployed – 27 weeks or longer – was “little changed” at 5 million.

Other key figures were significantly worse in August, lead by a drop in the labor force of 368,000 people. More pointedly, the number of Americans BLS reported as being ‘not in the labor force’ grew by 581,000 as people either took retirement or gave up looking for work all together.

The number of those working part-time for economic reasons also showed little change, providing further evidence of a labor market plagued by a stubborn stagnation.

“The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 8.0 million in August. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job,” BLS reported.

Further underscoring the fact that the labor market has stagnated is the report that the numbers of those marginally attached to the labor force – unemployed, not looking for work, but still wanting a job – stayed unchanged from one year ago.

“In August, 2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, essentially unchanged from a year earlier.”

This number is particularly significant because it captures a segment of people who could and would work, were jobs available for them – as opposed to those who retire early, join the military, or leave the labor force for other reasons.