The nation's civilian unemployment rate in June remained at 7.3 percent for the fifth consecutive month, despite the continued deterioration in manufacturing employment, which now is below the levels of last summer.
Few new jobs were added to the economy in June, according to the Labor Department's survey of businesses. The number of people without jobs remained at 8.4 million, the same level since February. The number of people working dropped from 107 million in May to 106.4 in June.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the District in May was 8 percent, the same as in April, the D.C. government reported. The rate for the metropolitan area rose from 3.7 percent to 3.8 percent, as the rate in the Washington suburbs rose from 2.8 percent to 3.0 percent.
The number of District residents with jobs rose by 100, to 295,800, and the number of people without jobs was unchanged at 25,600.
The federal unemployment report held out little hope for a strong rebound in economic activity during the second half of the year, and economists said they would not be surprised if the unemployment rate rose in July.
Since the economic recovery began more than two years ago, the gap between increased employment in services and manufacturing has widened, in large part because of the influx of imports that have captured business from American manufacturers.
Many economists have said the current decrease in manufacturing employment is the start of a rapid decline in the importance of factory work in the U.S. economy.
Last month, the number of factory jobs declined by 45,000, bringing the total of factory jobs lost since January to 220,000.
"A look at the employment changes over the entire 31 months of the current recovery underscores the extent of the employment restructuring that has occurred in the nation's factories," said Janet L. Norwood, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Manufacturing as a whole has recovered about 58 percent of the number of jobs lost during the 1981-1982 recession," Norwood continued.
Major industries that have lost employment are steel, textiles, chemicals, petroleum and coal products, and leather products, Norwood said. The fabricated-metals, machinery, food, apparel, stone, clay and glass industries have regained less than half the jobs lost during the recession, Norwood said.
A year ago, 19.44 million people were employed in manufacturing, compared with 19.38 million last month.
The deterioration in manufacturing "will go on for a while," said David Wyss, chief financial economist for Data Resources Inc. The decline in manufacturing employment is part of a longterm trend that accelerated because of "the ridiculous overvaluation of the dollar" that made imports more attractive.
Part of the decline in factory jobs is temporary, "but some of the losses are going to be difficult to make up," Wyss said.
Since 1980, the value of the dollar has risen about 40 percent, which makes U.S. goods relatively more expensive than products made abroad. That, in turn, has led to record U.S. trade deficits. Last year the deficit was $123.3 billion, and this year it is expected to be as much as $150 billion.
Even automobile sales, which had been strong earlier this year, dropped sharply in the first 10 days last month after the Japanese relaxed voluntary export restraints on sales of their cars in the United States.
The civilian unemployment rate has not dropped below 7 percent since April 1980, when it was 6.9 percent, according to the Labor Department.
One consequence of prolonged high levels of unemployment has been an increase in poverty, according to a report by the Full Employment Action Council and other private groups.
Since 1979, the number of unemployed people living below the poverty line has risen from 14 percent to 23 percent, the report said. "Poverty is increasingly the result of prolonged and intermittent joblessness," the report said.
"While the economic recovery of 1983 brought work for many more people than in the three previous years, the proportion of persons with employment problems living below the poverty line actually increased," it said.
Although the number of factory jobs declined, employment in services continued to climb by 85,000 in June. Wholesale trade and finance, insurance and real estate continued to add jobs last month.
Economists yesterday said that in light of the unemployment report, it appeared that the government's first estimate of a 3.1 percent rate of growth in the second quarter would probably be revised downward.
"As slow economic activity continues, average hours worked are slowing and employment growth is faltering," said Jack Carlson, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. The decline in factory jobs underscored the recession-like conditions in the manufacturing sector, where domestic producers are having a hard time competing with foreign companies, Carlson said.
The average weekly hours worked by production employes in manufacturing rose slightly, but that was the result of an increase in overtime hours, which usually suggest that employers prefer to work their current employes harder rather than hire new ones.
The index of aggregate weekly hours of production workers rose slightly, suggesting that industrial production in June was virtually flat, economists said.
The unemployment rate for men rose from 6.1 percent to 6.5 percent and the rate for women dropped from 6.9 percent to 6.7 percent, the Labor Department said. The rate for teen-agers declined from 18.9 percent to 18.3 percent.
The unemployment rate for blacks dropped from 15.6 percent to 14 percent. The rate for whites rose from 6.2 percent to 6.5 percent. The rate for Hispanics declined from 10.7 percent to 10.6 percent.