By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER
AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. employers added only 80,000 jobs in June, a third straight month of weak hiring that shows the economy is still struggling three years after the recession ended.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The economy added an average of just 75,000 jobs a month in the April-June quarter. That’s one-third of the 226,000 a month created in the first quarter.
For the first six months of the year, U.S. employers added an average of 150,000 jobs a month. That’s fewer than the 161,000 a month for the first half of 2011. And it suggests that three years after the Great Recession officially ended, the job market is weakening instead of strengthening.
“It’s a disappointing report,” said George Mokrzan, director of economics at Huntington National Bank in Columbus, Ohio. He said the job gains are consistent with sluggish economic growth.
A weaker job market has made consumers less confident. They have pulled back on spending, even though gas prices have plunged.
High unemployment could shift momentum to Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. An Associated Press-GfK poll released last month found that more than half of those surveyed disapproved of President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy.
The economy is growing too slowly to lower the unemployment rate. Obama is expected to face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any president since the Great Depression, and the economy is the top issue for many voters.
Dismal June job figures could also prompt the Federal Reserve to take further action to try to boost the economy. The Fed last month downgraded its economic outlook for 2012. It predicted growth of just 1.9 percent to 2.4 percent. And it doesn’t expect the unemployment rate to fall much further this year.
Revisions to the job gains in April and May were little changed from the government’s previous estimates.
There were some good signs in the report. The average work week grew to 34.5 hours from 34.4 in May, boosting many workers’ paychecks. And average hourly pay rose 6 cents to $23.50. Hourly pay has increased 2 percent in the past year and is ahead of inflation, which has fallen in recent months along with gas prices.
About one-third of the jobs gained in June were in temporary services. Manufacturing added 11,000, its ninth straight month of gains.
But growth in factory jobs slowed sharply in the second quarter compared to the first. Health care added 13,000 jobs and financial services gained 5,000. Retailers, transportation firms and government cut jobs.