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US Economy Loses More Jobs in June


The Labor Department says the U.S. economy lost 62,000 jobs in June. Although the nation's unemployment rate has remained steady, the employment report released Thursday represents the sixth consecutive month of job losses - or nearly half a million fewer jobs in the first half of 2008. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.

Thousands more Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed. The Labor Department says the U.S. economy lost more jobs than it created in June - with the biggest losses felt in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Making matters worse is the skyrocketing price of oil, which hit a new high Thursday - nearly $146 a barrel.

"The oil prices are a strong head wind [obstacle] and at this level, they have got a high risk that they are going to prolong the slowdown," said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

In California, where unemployment is among the highest in the nation, the slowdown can be seen in longer lines and even longer waits to talk to someone at the unemployment office.

"It's been kind of difficult to contact someone at the unemployment office. It's taken me over a week just to get through the phone system," one unemployed worker said.

The delays mean longer waits for unemployment checks.

With no job and no paycheck, it's a desperate situation for some who can't even afford to put gasoline in their cars so they can look for work.

According to the same unemployed man, "I go days without gas. How am I supposed to look for work without gas? I can do virtually any kind of work. I don't care if it's heavy lifting work, I'll dig a ditch if I have to dig a ditch to make some money."

Despite the job losses, the government says the nation's unemployment rate has remained steady at 5.5 percent. Economists explain the numbers remain the same because people are taken out of the system when their unemployment benefits run out.

Treasury Secretary Paulson admits these are challenging times.

"These conditions are not acceptable to the American people, and so we're focused on the issues before us, but I would say to you the long term fundamentals are strong in our country," he said.

Despite the optimism, the June employment report is a sharp contrast with last year when U.S. companies created an average surplus of 90,000 jobs each month.