The government's definition of unemployed is someone who's out of work and has actively looked for a job in the past four weeks.
— Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer
GOVERNMENTS HURTING, NOT HELPING
In normal recoveries, government hiring helps economies rebound from recessions.
Not this time.
When you count the 7,000 public-sector jobs lost in August, governments at all levels — federal, state and local — have slashed 670,000 jobs since the recession ended in June 2009. By contrast, private companies have added 3.5 million jobs.
It's the first time since World War II that governments have shed jobs this deep into an economic recovery. At this point — three years and two months — into the nine previous postwar recoveries, government jobs had risen an average 8 percent.
This time, they're down 3 percent.
— Paul Wiseman, AP Economics Writer
A FURLOUGHED TEACHER
Most of the government job cuts have been made by states and localities. Some Pennsylvania school districts, for example, have had to lay off teachers after the state cut subsidies to public schools by more than 10 percent.
Kayla Middleton was among them. She was one of about 70 teachers furloughed this year by the Reading School District.
Once rumors of layoffs began circulating, Middleton, 26, a fourth-grade teacher, knew her lack of seniority made her a likely target. She received a furlough notice three days before the school year ended in June.
"I was 38th from the bottom, so I knew there was no way I was escaping," she says.
— Peter Jackson, Associated Press writer
NO PANIC ON WALL STREET
Investors took the August hiring slowdown in stride.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose nearly 15 points, and other stock indexes also made modest gains.
The calm response followed huge gains Thursday, when the Dow hit its highest mark since December 2007. That followed the European Central Bank's announced plan to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds to help ease borrowing costs for countries struggling with debts.
One reason investors probably didn't panic Friday was that sluggish U.S. hiring means the Federal Reserve is now more likely to announce some aggressive action next week to try to lower interest rates and boost the economy.
Lower rates would make borrowing cheaper. They'd also cause some investors to shift money out of bonds and into stocks, which would lift stock prices.
UNEMPLOYMENT IN BATTLEGROUNDS
President Barack Obama will face voters in two months with an unemployment rate near 8 percent. But in the battleground states where the election will be decided, unemployment rates range widely.
Some such states, like Iowa, Virginia and New Hampshire, are enjoying lower-than-average unemployment. Others, like Nevada and North Carolina, are suffering more than most.
Even in states faring relatively well, job growth isn't necessarily booming. New Hampshire, for example, has one of the lowest state unemployment rates: 5.4 percent. Yet a report by forecasting firm IHS Global calls the state's economy "shaky at best" because of shrinking payrolls in manufacturing and other areas.
And in Iowa (unemployment: 5.3 percent), construction and manufacturing are doing well. But the state's economy is being hurt by this year's drought and sharp cuts in state and local government jobs.
— Alan Fram, Associated Press writer
WORDS TO DESCRIBE THE NUMBERS
Here's what the two presidential campaigns said after the August jobs report was released:
President Barack Obama: "We know it's not good enough. We need to create more jobs, faster."
Mitt Romney: "We're going in the wrong direction."
Alan Krueger, head of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers: "While there is more work that remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression."