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Unemployment, Inc.: Six reasons why America can't create jobs

UPDATE: No net growth in new jobs in August kept the US unemployment rate at 9.1 percent. Six reasons the country is struggling to put people to work – and why it may not last.

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So, will there ever be enough jobs again?

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The answer in all likelihood is yes, but ...

America faces an enormous jobs hole to dig out of, which could take years. The good news is, for all the problems, at least some jobs are being created.

Marvin Bentley, who works at a direct-mail service firm in New Hampshire, says his company has slashed costs without cutting pay and is now hiring. "We've got ads in the paper right now," he says.

At United Equipment Accessories, the manufacturing firm in Iowa, employment is up modestly this year despite slow sales. "We have been in the process of hiring technical staff for the introduction of a new product line," says Mr. Hanawalt.

And in Boston, the young online retailing firm Wayfair has been expanding its sales and staffing rapidly, even in the Great Recession's wake. The firm has doubled its payroll, to more than 800 people, over the past two years.

In almost an echo of the halcyon days of the 1990s, the firm is not just adding people but trying to nurture them on the job, too. Wayfair cofounder Steve Conine says the firm hands each employee $20 a month to pay for some fun with colleagues, such as bowling or a boat ride, and the founders take time to meet all new employees for lunch.

Still, overall the country would need to generate about 21 million new jobs by the end of the decade in order to return to a 5 percent jobless rate. The McKinsey Global Institute, in an analysis earlier this year, concluded that those gains are possible with the right policies. The leisure and hospitality sector alone could add 3 million jobs, for instance, partly by luring more foreign tourists to the US.

For those searching for one of these elusive positions, the best advice might be patience and perseverance.

These are two traits Clanton and Harris, back in Mississippi, seem to have cultivated. They remain optimistic about their job search, buoyed in part by the simple fact that they are a team. They believe in each other – so much so that they fill out job applications for each other online. Their families believe in them as well. It helps.

As a relative swipes a credit card to pay for a pair of black-and-white boots for Clanton, she returns to Harris's side, grinning with the almost-forgotten pleasure of "retail therapy." She's not discouraged. Not while Harris is still so shyly proud of his fresh start as a college student. Like millions of other Americans, they are building for the future as best as they can.

• Contributing to this report were Carmen K. Sisson in Columbus, Miss.; Steve Dinnen in Des Moines, Iowa; and Kevin Moran in Boston.

IN PICTURES: The 10 happiest jobs

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