BY PAUL WISEMAN and CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER
Associated Press WASHINGTON — The American job machine has jammed. Again.
The economy added only 80,000 jobs in June, the government said Friday, erasing any doubt that the United States is in a summer slump for the third year in a row.
“Let’s just agree, this number stinks,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at the investment firm BTIG.
It was the third consecutive month of weak job growth. From April through June the economy produced an average of just 75,000 jobs a month, the weakest quarter since July through September 2010.
The unemployment rate stayed at 8.2 percent, a recession-level figure, even though the Great Recession has technically been over for three years.
“The labor market is treading water,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. She called it an “ongoing, severe crisis for the American workforce.”
For American investors, the jobs report fell into an uncomfortable middle ground.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke promised last month that the Fed would take additional steps to help the economy “if we’re not seeing a sustained improvement in the labor market.”
But some financial analysts said that the Labor Department report, while disappointing, was not weak enough to lock in further action by the Fed at its next meeting July 31 and Aug. 1.
The slowdown in job growth has been stark. From December through February the economy spun off an average of 252,000 jobs a month, twice what is needed to keep up with population growth.
But the jobs generator started sputtering in March, when job growth slowed to 143,000.
At first, economists blamed the weather for warping the numbers. An unusually warm winter allowed construction companies and other employers to hire earlier in the year than usual, effectively stealing jobs from the spring, they said.
But weird weather could explain only so much, and the bad news kept coming. The economy added just 68,000 jobs in April and 77,000 in May. Those figures reflect revisions from earlier estimates of 77,000 for April and 69,000 for May.
June’s dud of a number made it clear that the economy has fallen into the same pattern it followed in 2010 and 2011 — it gets off to a relatively fast start, then fades at midyear.
Offering some hope, the slowdowns in each of the two previous years lasted four months, and they were worse than this year’s has been.
From June through September 2010, the economy lost an average of 75,000 jobs per month. From May through August 2011, the economy added an average of 80,000 per month. This year, the four-month average gain since March is 92,000.
But the United States is still suffering the hangover of a financial crisis and the worst recession since the 1930s. The economy lost 8.8 million jobs during and after the recession. It has regained 3.8 million.