Disappointment in Job Market

08-6-04 - WASHINGTON (AP) The economy added a paltry 32,000 jobs in July, well below the 200,000 plus that most economists had been expecting. The Labor Department released the July jobs report Friday morning.

The results mark the smallest gain in hiring since December and follow a revised gain of just 78,000 in June, less than previously reported. May's payrolls also were revised down to show a gain of 208,000.

The slowdown in payroll growth is a potentially troubling sign that the rough patch the economy hit in June may spread. But the Labor Department reports that the unemployment rate dipped down a notch to 5.5% last month, from 5.6% in June. That's the lowest jobless rate since October 2001.

However, economists look more closely at the payroll figure as a better barometer of the health of the jobs market.