Drop in US jobless rate is seen as harbinger of economic upturn

A slight 0.1 percent drop in August unemployment figures, down to 6.8 percent, ended a six-month slide in manufacturing jobs, and was hailed by the government as the first sign of the long-awaited economic upturn. The economy created between 240,000 and 273,000 new jobs last month, raising the proportion of working Americans to an all-time high of 60.9 percent and reducing unemployment rolls by 163,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

Business services and health care posted the largest job gains, followed by construction. But the most signifcant factor in the report was an abrupt halt to steady monthly declines in manufacturing employment since last February.

A White House statement called the jobless report ``a bright picture for the nation's economy'' and said it ``dramatically underscores progress in the American work force.''

``Today's economic news is a sure signal of accelerating economic growth in the second half of this year,'' said White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes. The overall civilian employment growth was concentrated among white workers. The unemployment rate for whites fell from 6 percent to 5.8 percent. The rate for adult men was down from 6.2 percent to 5.9 percent.

The jobless rate for black workers rose from 14 percent to 14.6 percent after declining from 15.1 percent in June.

For other population groups rates in August were:

Adult women, 6.1 percent, unchanged from July.

Teen-agers, 17.7 percent, up from 17.5.

Black teens, 37.4 percent, down from 41.6.

Hispanics, 11 percent, up from 10.5.

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