WASHINGTON — Employers cut a larger-than-expected 467,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate climbed to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent. Workers also saw weekly wages fall, suggesting Americans will have little appetite to spend and the economy’s road to recovery will be bumpy.
The Labor Department report, released Thursday, showed that even as the recession flashes signs of easing, companies likely will want to keep a lid on costs and be wary of hiring until they feel certain the economy is on solid ground.
President Barack Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press, said he is “deeply concerned” about unemployment and conceded that too many families are worried about “whether they will be next” to suffer an economic blow. He also expressed disappointment over the weak employment figures, acknowledging that “what we are still seeing is too many jobs lost.”
June’s payroll reductions were deeper than the 363,000 that economists expected and average weekly earnings dropped to the lowest level in nearly a year.
However, the rise in the unemployment rate from 9.4 percent in May wasn’t as sharp as the expected 9.6 percent. Still, many economists predict the jobless rate will hit 10 percent this year, and keep rising into next year, before falling back.
All told, 14.7 million people were unemployed in June.
If laid-off workers who have given up looking for new jobs or have settled for part-time work are included, the unemployment rate would have been 16.5 percent in June, the highest on records dating to 1994.
“We were on the road of things getting less bad in the jobs market, and that has been temporarily waylaid,” said economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics. “But this doesn’t change my view that the recession will end later this year. We’re probably two months away.”
On Wall Street, the employment news pulled stocks lower. The Dow Jones industrials lost more than 175 points in afternoon trading, and broader indices also fell. Overseas markets dropped after a report showed unemployment in Europe rose to a 10-year high in May.
Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 6.5 million jobs.
As the downturn bites into sales and profits, companies have turned to layoffs and other cost-cutting measures to survive. Those include holding down workers’ hours and freezing or cutting pay.
The average work week in June fell to 33 hours, the lowest on records dating to 1964.
“We are in some very hard and severe economic times,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in an interview. “The president and I are both not happy.”
Still, Solis thought it was too early to consider a second government stimulus, saying more time is needed for the current one to take hold. “I do think the public needs to be patient,” she said. “We know they are hurting.”