20110708 job unemployment briefcase 54
A job seeker holds a briefcase as he waits in line to meet with recruiters during the Job Hunter's Boot Camp at College of San Mateo on June 7, 2011 in San Mateo, Calif. - 

Kai Ryssdal: One does wish we could start the weekend with a better dose of economic news. Like almost anything other than this morning's jobs report.

It was -- and this is experts talking, not just me -- it was terrible. Without a single redeeming feature. Unmitigated disaster, one guy said. A net gain of $18,000 jobs was the headline number, not much more than a rounding error when compared to the number of people out of work in this country. The unemployment rate rose a tick in June to 9.2 percent.

And here's a thought. Given that the recovery now's officially two years old, what are companies waiting for? Marketplace Jeff Horwich starts us off today.

Jeff Horwich: Where are the jobs? Well, start with this annoying conundrum: Companies continue to hold the economy back because they're worried the economy will never get going. Here's Erick Ajax, who runs a metal fabrication business in Minneapolis.

Erick Ajax: We could potentially have a double-dip recession where we're having to hire people now but lay them off a couple months from now. And that would be the last thing we'd want to do.

Along with generally waiting for things to perk up, companies are waiting for the government to do something about it. Or not. At least make up your mind, says Doug Roberts of Channel Capital Research.

Doug Roberts: Some type of a long-term program to develop job growth, to develop industry, and until you've got something like that in place, you're really just kind of tinkering with things.

The long-term level of government spending is a big question for business, says Randy Kroszner of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. And love it or hate it, he says health care reform is holding companies back for now.

Randy Kroszner: Both uncertainty that's in the plan itself, and of course there are many legal challenges to it. I chair the university benefits committee. And it just creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty about what the costs will be for permanent hiring.

Then there's productivity: Why hire when you can squeeze more from what you've got? For manufacturer Erick Ajax, the key is more training and new technology.

Ajax: Even though our revenue is back to pre-recession levels, we're doing the same amount of work with 10 to 15 percent fewer employees.

And companies with open jobs aren't always finding what they need. Ajax is hiring, but you'd better have the skills: The guy he just hired to run a high-tech metal press has a fresh degree in precision sheet metal manufacturing.

I'm Jeff Horwich for Marketplace.

Follow Jeff Horwich at @jeffhorwich