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US adds a lackluster 169,000 jobs, with men lagging behind women in employment

The overall unemployment rate fell a notch to 7.3 percent. But the rate for men – 7.7 percent – is now nearly a full percentage point higher than it is for women (6.8 percent).

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People check out opportunities during a job fair in Miami Lakes, Fla. US employers added 169,000 jobs in August, and the unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent, the lowest in nearly five years, according to the Labor Department, Friday.

Alan Diaz/AP/File

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America’s employers added 169,000 jobs in August, but the overall US labor market showed more signs of weakness than strength.

And, notably, the employment landscape is particularly challenging for men and less-educated workers.

A few key indicators:

• The US unemployment rate fell a notch to 7.3 percent, but the change stemmed more from a decline in the number of people hoping to work than from new jobs being created.

• The pace of job growth overall has slowed in recent months. In its report, the Labor Department revised down its estimates of job creation in June and July.

• A gap between men and women, which had narrowed since the nation officially exited recession in 2009, has emerged again. The unemployment rate is now nearly a full percentage point higher for men (at 7.7 percent) than for women (6.8 percent).

• Another gap, along education lines, is widening: The jobless rate for people with less than a high school diploma rose to 11.3 percent in August, while unemployment for those with a college degree is 3.5 percent and falling.

“This report confirms our outlook of lackluster economic growth for the second half of the year,” says Doug Handler, chief US economist at IHS Global Insight, in a written analysis of Friday's Labor report.

The situation lately has been particularly tough for men in blue-collar fields such as construction and manufacturing, Mr. Handler says.

“The size of the labor force shrank by 312,000 in August,” driven entirely by men exiting the job market, he says. “This suggests that much of the decline came from occupations that are male-dominated, such as construction, and that many former workers are becoming discouraged about their job prospects and dropping out of the labor force as a result.”

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