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SALT LAKE CITY — The nation’s labor market added 80,000 jobs in June, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.2 percent. Despite the modest gains, some analysts are underwhelmed.
"It's relatively anemic," said Westminster College economics professor John Watkins. "It's not enough to get the unemployment rate to go down."
"The fact that 80,000 jobs were added would just keep up with new people coming into the labor force, so unemployment would remain unchanged," he said.
The fact that 80,000 jobs were added would just keep up with new people coming into the labor force, so unemployment would remain unchanged.
–John Watkins, economics professor
Watkins said in order for unemployment to decrease, the U.S. economy must add about 125,000 new jobs monthly. Thus far in 2012, job growth has been virtually flat.
He conceded that the fact that jobs are not declining is "OK," but more needs to be done in the public and private sectors to encourage economic and job growth.
"Corporate America is sitting on lots of cash," he said. "They are sitting on that cash because of uncertainty in the future … so they are holding back."
Government must consider new ideas to develop a more attractive environment for jobs creation, Watkins said. Until then, the national employment picture will likely remain relatively stagnant.
Fortunately, Utah has been able to buck the national trend for the most part.
In May, the nonfarm wage and salaried job count in the Beehive State expanded by 2.4 percent compared to the employment level for May 2011 — a 12-month increase of 28,800 jobs. The Utah Department of Workforce Services reported that total wage and salary employment climbed to 1,230,500.
The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 6.0 percent, while the current national unemployment rate is 8.2 percent.
Meantime, the Labor Department touted the gains as a signal of economic expansion.
“We have seen 28 straight months of private sector job growth, during which time our economy has added back close to 4.4 million private sector jobs, with nearly 1 million jobs added this year," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. "We have added an average of 150,000 private sector jobs per month in 2012, continuing at the same steady pace as last year and with jobs being created across all sectors and regions of the country."
She noted that the gross domestic product has grown for 11 consecutive quarters, despite uncertainty in the global economy.
“We continue to face headwinds from the threat of recession in Europe, our largest trading partner," Solis said. "Though less demand from across the ocean could present challenges for our exporters as they work to create jobs here at home, U.S. exports to the European Union in the first quarter of the year were at the highest level since 1997."
Approval of student loan relief would help more people attain their educational goals, thereby acquiring the skills necessary to make them employable, she said. And the Supreme Court’s health care ruling would allow businesses to plan long-term strategies that will lead to more healthy workers who are critical to an improving economy.
“This administration continues to work to promote the return of good jobs back to American communities," Solis said. "That’s why it’s so important for Congress to … pass legislation to provide incentives for companies to bring jobs home."
Contributing: Richard Piatt