US outlook for jobs darkens

Initial unemployment claims and an ADP report suggest that the US is creating jobs at a slowing pace.

Eric Risberg/AP
In this June 28 photo, job seekers wait in line to register and attend a National Career Fair in San Francisco. Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose for the second time in three weeks last week, a sign that layoffs are rising.

The signals for US workers are not looking very positive.

On Friday, the Department of Labor will release its estimate of how many jobs the US economy created or lost last month. The data so far suggests that the number isn't going to be very cheerful.

On Thursday, for example, the number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits jumped back up 13,000 to 472,000. The closely watched four-week average now stands at a three-month high.

A day earlier, a private-sector survey of the job market suggested that nonfarm private employment rose by only 13,000 in June after rising 57,000 the month before. That report, from the ADP National Employment Report, was actually more bullish than the official May figures from the Labor Department.

"We're clearly in a soft patch," says Stephen Wood, chief market strategist in Russell Investments, a global financial services firm based in a Tacoma, Wash. "The recovery is not going to be this V-shaped snapback. It's going to be more like a grind."

Friday's official unemployment numbers are expected to look especially bad because the Census Bureau is beginning to let go of the hundreds of thousands of temporary workers it had hired for its census-taking operation.

But the private sector could still see a jump of 100,000 or more jobs. By historical standards, that would be a tepid rise this far into a recovery.

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