On The Bright Side, Our Downward Slide Was Slightly Slower This Month

I'm not as optimistic as this reporter, but then, I don't live on Planet Beltway, either. George Bush's legacy lives on - we still have a commercial

I'm not as optimistic as this reporter, but then, I don't live on Planet Beltway, either. George Bush's legacy lives on - we still have a commercial real estate crash to get through, and the banks have only postponed their day of reckoning. (Although the Onion has a slightly brighter forecast):

Despite an emerging economic expansion, businesses were sufficiently skittish about the future that the job market continued its long, steep decline in August, according to a new government report Friday. The unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent, from 9.4 percent, as employers shed jobs for the 20th straight month, the Labor Department said.

The increase was greater than many analysts had forecast, and it undermined hopes that the corporate sector will rapidly rebuild its workforce following the economic trauma of the last year. That in turn could keep a self-sustaining recovery from taking hold, as Americans have less money to spend and less confidence about their own job prospects.

"Our clients tell us they will not hire in anticipation of a recovery, but will wait until they see it," said Jonas Prising, an executive vice president at Manpower, the giant employment services firm. "In a normal recession, people would now start to feel more comfortable and start hiring, but nobody is doing that today. They'll do it when they see real orders and real business."

The new numbers included some silver linings: The 216,000 jobs that employers shed in August was the slowest rate of job loss in a year, which drove the stock market up 1.3 percent, as measured by the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.

Companies are not laying people off at the same furious pace they were a few months ago -- the number of people to lose their jobs in mass layoffs fell 26 percent in July. But neither are they willing to take the risk of bringing on new workers, despite signs that there could be better times ahead.

About Susie Madrak

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