Employers stepped up hiring in August, expanding payrolls by 144,000 and lowering the unemployment rate marginally to 5.4 percent. While the figures didn't amount to a national job fair, analysts said, they did hold out the promise of stronger growth following the summer lull.
The latest snapshot of the employment climate, contained in a Labor Department report Friday, came just about two months before the country votes for a president. George W. Bush, who has the job, sparred with Democratic rival John Kerry on the campaign trail over the health of the economy and the availability of work, says Forbes.
Economists spooked by the surprisingly weak summer jobs picture breathed a sigh of relief at the August gain and the revisions for earlier months. But many noted also that 144,000 jobs is hardly the stuff of a robust recovery and demonstrates that the nation's employers continue to regard this economy warily.
"It's good news relative to the dismal numbers we've seen this summer," said Ethan Harris, chief U.S. economist for Lehman Brothers in New York. "The bad news is that the economy can't really seem to restore itself to full health.", reports Newsday.
The White House stressed the positive aspects of the jobs report, with President Bush declaring at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania: "It shows that our economy is strong and getting stronger."
The Democrats, though, emphasized the net loss of private-sector posts during Bush's tenure.
Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry countered that Bush is the first president since the 1930s to seek re-election "without creating a single job," referring to the fact that the United States is down a net 1.65 million private-sector jobs since Bush took office in January 2001, informs Reuters.
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