A big fat zero. If you were looking for the most concise possible description of the United States economy, there you have it: On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. economy added no jobs in August.
One huge caveat: The Verizon strike in August accounted for a net (and temporary) loss of 45,000 jobs. If you add to the calculation the 17,000 jobs shed by government, then the U.S. economy registered a net gain of 62,000 private sector jobs, which, while not robust by any means, still suggests there are some feeble signs of growth visible in the U.S. economy
Elsewhere, the report screamed stagnation, except where it documented decline.
The unemployment rate stayed steady at 9.1 percent. The number of long-term unemployed held at an appalling 6 million. The labor force participation rate and employment-population ratio were unchanged -- both strong indicators of an economy trapped in quicksand.
The number of involuntary part-time workers rose by 400,000. Worst of all, average weekly hours and weekly earnings both fell. Payroll growth numbers for June and July were revised downward, by a total of 58,000.
Cue the double dip recession warnings and get ready for another round of political recriminations and blame-slinging as we head into the Labor Day weekend. Now, more than ever, would be a good time for the President to propose an aggressive job creation program, even if the chances of anything meaningful passing Congress are about the same as the number of new jobs created in August: A big fat zero.