Washington The nation's unemployment rate dipped to 6.2 percent in July, but businesses cut jobs for a sixth month in a row, still wary despite signs the economy is on the mend. With jobs scarce, close to half a million people gave up looking.
The Labor Department's report Friday suggested that the job market remained stubbornly sluggish, frustrating jobseekers on Main Street, discouraging investors on Wall Street and polarizing lawmakers in Washington as they look for a way to get the economy back to full throttle.
Employers chopped 44,000 jobs in July, which brought losses since January to 486,000. Economists had been saying the statistics might show positions had been added, perhaps as many as 10,000.
"Employers remain skeptical. While there are clearly some hopeful signs that the economy is improving, they want to be ... sure that it is not just a flash in the pan," said Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics. "Corporate hiring managers want to see a track record of growth before they make permanent new hires."
The jobless rate declined to a two-month low of 6.2 percent from a nine-year high of 6.4 percent in June. The drop, however, reflected people leaving the work force, not a burst in hiring. The civilian labor force declined by 556,000 during the month as people left for any number of reasons.
The report also identified 470,000 people in July who were not currently looking for work because they were discouraged over job prospects. That was up from 405,000 in July 2002 but down slightly from the 478,000 discouraged people reported for June.