The Labor Department reports that the U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged in June at 8.2 percent while adding 80,000 jobs, mostly in the professional services sector. The first quarter of 2012 averaged a gain of more than 225,000 positions per month, while the second quarter averaged just 75,000.
Despite being above average for the quarter, June's figures were some of the most negative of the year. While 47,000 professional services jobs were added in the month, nearly half of those were temporary positions. The healthcare sector, which has averaged nearly 30,000 positions per month over the last year, added just 13,000 jobs during the month. June, however, saw the Affordable Care Act's individual coverage mandate upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, setting the stage for insurers and health care providers to begin preparing for a substantial increase in their patient base within 30 months.
The business, management, and related occupations unemployment rate fell from 4.7 to 4.4 percent year-over-year with the largest decline occurring in the management, business, and financial operation segment, where it fell from 4.6 to 3.8 percent. The bachelor's degree and higher unemployment rate, which is seasonally adjusted, rose from 3.9 percent to 4.1 percent as both the size of that population and its employed portion fell.
In 2011, employment growth also slowed during the summer months. Yet, June was the first month of 2012 to report lower job growth than the year before. Economists project employment gains will rebound moving into the fall, rising to a monthly average closer to 120,000 positions gained. However, even at that level, growth will not be enough to meaningfully move the unemployment needle.
While June's employment report was clearly one of the most sobering of the year, it also points to a broader trend of less movement in the labor market. While hiring has not been high, layoffs have been even lower. General merchandise stores were the only sector to see significant decreases in their employment, down 12,500 positions. Employers have continued to adopt a wait-and-see attitude as activity on several fronts-especially for non-critical roles-has slowed. Though what employers are waiting for-a resolution to the euro debt crisis, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. presidential election, the fiscal cliff-remains unclear.