U.S. Continues To Shed Jobs

By John S. McClenahen Although the 2004 U.S. presidential and congressional elections are still more than 13 months away and much could change economically, jobs will probably be the defining domestic issue of the major party campaigns. And the fact is that even as the economy generally and manufacturing in particular show signs of an accelerating recovery from the 2001 recession, jobs continue to be shed. Total nonfarm payrolls declined by 93,000 in August, the U.S. Labor Department reported last Friday. Economists generally had expected payrolls to add 10,000 workers in August. Manufacturing, continuing a trend that began in July 2000, lost another 44,000 jobs last month. In August, the wood products, machinery, apparel, electrical equipment, and appliance industries each lost 5,000 jobs, the department said. Textiles lost 12,000 jobs. The overall unemployment rate fell to 6.1% in August from 6.2% in July, despite the job losses. Part of that can be explained by a higher number of so-called marginally attached workers, people who wanted and were available for work, but were not counted as unemployed because they had not actively sought work during the four weeks preceding the Labor Department survey on which the jobless rate is based. "The modest decline in the overall unemployment rate reported . . . by the Labor Department cannot mask the loss of 93,000 more jobs, 44,000 of them in manufacturing, and should serve as a wakeup call to policy makers," insists Jerry J. Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C. "This is a lousy employment report, as manufacturing has now lost jobs for 37 consecutive months," he states. "The armchair experts who say this is just another cyclical downturn are in a dream world and completely out of touch with today's competitive realities. This unprecedented loss of manufacturing jobs is due to structural changes in international trade, rising costs of production in the U.S., and the resulting cash flow squeeze that forces job cuts."

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