Unemployment rate inches upward

A string of layoffs this year is tarnishing the nation's golden era of employment.

America's jobless rate ticked upward in June, reaching 4.5 overall, as manufacturers and retailers alike continued to trim their workforces, the Labor Department reported.

The June figure, up from 4.4 percent in May, matches April's rate, which marked the highest level of unemployment in the nation's yearlong economic downturn.

Job cuts in the first half of 2001 increased nearly 3-1/2 times compared with the same period last year, according to placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Telecommunications firms led all industries in layoffs this year, cutting more than 130,000 jobs from their payrolls through June. The automotive industry had the second-highest number, with some 87,000 layoffs. The computer industry, industrial-goods makers, and electronic manufacturers rounded out the top five.

Although the unemployment rate has risen well above the three-decade low of 3.9 percent reached several months during 2000, Challenger CEO John Challenger says unemployment could remain in check because the jobs most vulnerable to layoffs are still relatively in demand.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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