Factbox: Underlying job growth weak by any measure

Fri Sep 2, 2011 6:24pm EDT

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(Reuters) - U.S. jobs growth evaporated in August, increasing the risk the country could slip back into recession and raising pressure on President Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve to act quickly to boost growth.

Following are key details from the Labor Department figures:

* The private sector actually added 17,000 jobs, but government payrolls shrank by the same amount and the expansion in the private sector was still the weakest since February 2010 when private payrolls contracted by 21,000 jobs.

* Even if one added to the tally the 46,300 workers on strike during the payroll survey period -- mostly at Verizon Communications -- private sector payrolls growth would still have been the weakest since May 2010.

* Taking into account the striking workers and 23,000 or so Minnesota state employees who returned to the job after a partial government shutdown, which helped temper the loss of public jobs, the underlying pace of job growth appeared around 23,300 -- weak by any measure.

* Private jobs were created almost exclusively in the services sector, with 35,500 new health care and social assistance jobs making up the lion's share of the gains.

* The 3,000-worker dip in manufacturing payrolls was the first such decline since October 2010.

* Employment fell by 7.5 million jobs during the 2007-2009 recession and only about 640,000 new jobs have been created since.

* The percentage of the population in the work force increased in August for the first time since August 2010, rising to 64.0 percent. Normally that would be seen as a sign that people who had stopped hunting for work had grown more optimistic on job prospects. Still, at 64.0, this so-called participation rate was the second weakest since January 1984. The participation rate has been in near-steady decline since 2001, but the drop-off accelerated sharply in the last recession.

* All told, only 58.2 percent of the total population had a job. That was up from 58.1 percent in July but it still remained close to the lows touched in the wake of deep recessions in the early 1980s when fewer women worked.

* The number of unemployed out of work for 27 weeks or more fell by 151,000. That should provide a silver lining to the data for Fed Chairman Bernanke, who said last Friday that he was worried about long-term unemployment because it could do lasting damage to the economy.

* In general, the survey of households from which the jobless rate is derived provided another bright spot. The size of the workforce grew, but so did employment by this measure. However, economists focus on the payrolls survey, which has a much larger sample size.

* Temporary help -- often viewed as a harbinger of permanent hiring -- increased by 4,700.

* The length of the average work week dipped, while the aggregate weekly hours index -- a measure of the total work effort -- dropped 0.2 percent from a month earlier.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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