THE CIVILIAN unemployment rate stayed in the two-digit range in June, but 10 percent somehow seems a good bit more tolerable on the way down than it did on the way up. It was especially encouraging to find strong growth in employment in almost every sector of the economy.
June is always a difficult month for employment statisticians because the closing of schools brings a sharp jump in the labor force. This year other factors affecting the employment surveys added to the confusion. Nonetheless, information on adult workers, who are less influenced by seasonal factors, provides convincing evidence that so far the recovery is proceeding on a path more or less like the one followed in earlier recoveries.
Between May and June, the household survey found, several hundred thousand adult workers reentered the labor force and, better yet, found jobs. Non-agricultural employers report that they have added 1.1 million jobs to their payrolls since December. Most of these have been in the service industries, although manufacturing and construction have scored significant gains. As a result, total employment is now back to about the same level as at the start of the recession two years ago.
The labor force has, of course, grown since that time, which is why unemployment is still much higher. The people holding jobs now are also different in some important ways from those employed two years ago. This recession's big losers were, atypically, adult men. Unemployment among this group dropped significantly in June, but it is still 9 percent--50 percent higher than two years ago. Men, moreover, constitute more than two-thirds of the long-term unemployed, whose number is still rising. In June almost 3 million workers--most of them white males--had been jobless for over a half- year.
One reason that this recession has hit experienced workers so hard is the sharp contraction in the goods-producing industries. Despite recent gains, the economy still has almost 2 million fewer manufacturing jobs than at the start of the recession. Many of these lost jobs are in export-oriented firms --a reminder that full recovery still depends on reducing trade barriers and, by lowering interest rates, bringing the dollar more in line with other currencies.
The most somber note in this generally improving picture is that one group--black workers--has not shared at all in the recovery. Black unemployment exceeded 20 percent in June, just as it did last December, and fewer than half of black teen-agers seeking work could find it. General recovery will enable most Americans to adjust in some measure to the changing shape of the economy. But government intervention may be needed to make sure that no group of Americans is left behind.