Hiring picks up a bit in July

Job seekers wait in line to meet with a recruiter during the Catalyst Career Group job fair on August 4, 2011 in South San Francisco, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: Relatively speaking, today's jobs report was a bit of sunshine in what seems like a long stretch of downright evil economic weather. The Labor Department let it be known this morning that the American economy added 117,000 jobs last month -- a bit more than anybody'd been guessing. The unemployment rate dropped just a hair, down to 9.1 percent.

Like I said, it's all relative. And today's report comes against a backdrop of other mediocre economic news: stock market plunges and more debt problems that anybody can shake a stick at.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman has more on how it's playing out in the actual economy.


Mitchell Hartman: Today's report is an improvement over previous months. So, not bad -- but not particularly good, either. Especially if you're looking for a job.

Heidi Shierholz: There's not much in there for that person.

Says Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

Shierholz: 117,000 jobs added -- it's just barely enough to keep up with normal growth in the working-age population, not enough to start putting the backlog of unemployed workers back to work.

Nearly half of unemployed people have been looking at least six months for a job. And there are more than four job-seekers chasing every open position.

There is one bright spot, says Shierholz: fewer people are filing unemployment claims.

Shierholz: We don't have evidence that employers right now are ramping up layoffs. So that's good news. We'll have to wait to see what happens with hiring in the months to come.

And what's been happening this week -- in the economy and the stock market -- isn't exactly encouraging for small-business owners.

Bryan Kule: My name is Bryan Kule, I have two custom retail lighting stores in New Jersey called Shades of Soho. Right now, I'm not looking to hire anybody -- especially with yesterday. The idea is try to be as lean as possible, and hopefully make as much money as possible right now, and just be very cautious.

Darren Carter's in a good business -- medical software -- and his New York startup will be hiring soon, but:

Darren Carter: I'm also trying to find creative ways in hiring, because I feel like now there are ways to supplement your workforce without necessarily committing to a full-time employee.

Clark Bremer is a builder in Minneapolis. The recent economic troubles just seem like more of the same for him.

Clark Bremer: My customers, of course, get spooked when their investments lose value, so I don't have enough backlog of work that I'd feel comfortable and confident hiring someone.

Not exactly a recipe for recovery-style job growth.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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