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U.S. Economy: Jobless Rate Rises to Four-Year High

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Shobhana Chandra
Saturday, Aug 2, 2008

The U.S. unemployment rate rose to the highest level in more than four years as employers cut jobs again in July, increasing the threat of a deeper economic slowdown.

Payrolls fell by 51,000, less than forecast, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The jobless rate rose to 5.7 percent, from 5.5 percent the prior month. As recently as April, it was 5 percent. A separate report showed that manufacturing stagnated in July as companies were hit by rising raw-materials costs and slower spending.

“This is further evidence the economy is in a recession, probably a shallow recession,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts, referring to rising joblessness. “It will be a major drag on consumer spending.”

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The last time unemployment climbed so much in three months was at the end of the last U.S. recession in 2001. Payroll cuts combined with decreasing property values, stricter lending rules and near-record energy prices to send consumer confidence levels close to the weakest in 16 years in July.

Cutbacks at UAL Corp. and Starbucks Corp. signal firings are spreading beyond builders and manufacturers as raw-materials costs soar. General Motors Corp., which today announced a second-quarter loss of $15.5 billion, may eliminate about 5,000 U.S. jobs by year-end, people familiar with the plan said this week.

Payroll declines spanned transportation, retailing, manufacturing and temporary services industries, the Labor figures showed.

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This article was posted: Saturday, August 2, 2008 at 6:48 am

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