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June Brought 80,000 Jobs, 8.2 Percent Unemployment


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer with Steve Inskeep. The U.S. economy gained 80,000 jobs in June, that's the latest word from the Labor Department and it is another disappointing month of job growth. The number was slightly below expectations. The employment report is closely followed by economists. Job growth, of course, is front and center in the presidential election.

Joining us are NPR's political reporter Tamara Keith and economics correspondent, Chris Arnold.

Chris, let me go first to you. What do these latest numbers tell us about where the economy is going?

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Well, Linda, for anybody for a big positive turnaround - and there were some people hoping for that - these numbers are clearly disappointing. This is not a big, strong turnaround kind of number. This report confirms that we really do appear to have moved into a slower pace of job growth. And you probably remember, at various points in the recovery, we were gaining 250,000 jobs, 270,000, and the unemployment rate was dropping pretty sharply. Now it appears stuck at about 8.2 percent, so that's not terribly encouraging. Were not sliding back into recession, by any means, were still gaining jobs, but at a slower pace. And for anyone out there looking for a job, that's, of course, a pretty painfully slower pace.

WERTHEIMER: Tamara, this trend of slowing job growth, of course, is not good news for President Obama. The Republicans and Mr. Romney have been seizing upon these signs of slow economic growth.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: And this is exactly the kind of jobs report that they were looking for. Immediately after the report came out, a deluge of emails came in. Lot's of talk about the so-called failed Obama economy. They highlighted some less than flattering statistics - 41 straight months of unemployment over eight percent. You know, this quarter makes it the worst quarter for job creation in two years. And Governor Mitt Romney held a press conference to talk about the numbers.

MITT ROMNEY: There's a lot of misery out there today. And these numbers understate what people are feeling and the amount of pain which is occurring in middleclass America.

KEITH: You know, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers came out with a statement came out with a statement saying, you know, there are no quick fixes here, and we - you know, we have created a lot of jobs, 4.4 million over the last 28 months. But for the president, this is just a really tough pitch. The president's in a position of saying, well, it could've been worse. All Mitt Romney has to say is, it should be a lot better.

WERTHEIMER: So Chris, do you see any kind of positive aspect to this report?

ARNOLD: Well sure, like Tamara just said, it could have been worse. You know, that's not a terribly strong talking point, but that is true. Also, this report did, to some degree, reverse a troubling trend, that going back to January, every single month we saw weaker and weaker job growth. And this time around, that has started to come up off the bottom a bit. And with the revisions, now, it looks like, in April, we sort of touched on bottom. And then in May or June we've been gaining, at least, some more jobs. So, that's something that's positive. There are a few other positive things. Overall, though, in economic terms, this doesn't really change much. This is steady-as-she-goes, it's just that the ship is still moving at a disappointingly slow pace for adding jobs.

WERTHEIMER: Tamara, the president is on a bus tour this week. He was in Ohio, he's in Pennsylvania. Presidential elections come down to about a dozen swing states, and those are two of them. So, what is the employment situation look like in swing states?

KEITH: Well, it's actually surprisingly better than you might expect. Ohio, 7.3 percent; Pennsylvania, 7.1 - 7.4 percent. Well below the national average. But for the president, the issue really is how people feel about this economy, as much as what the numbers say. And he's out there making the pitch. It's not an easy one, though.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks, very much, to the two of you - NPR's Chris Arnold and Tamara Keith.

KEITH: Thank you.

ARNOLD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.
NPR correspondent Chris Arnold is based in Boston. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. He joined NPR in 1996 and was based in San Francisco before moving to Boston in 2001.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.