The markets were expecting the July jobs report to show the economy had gained 85,000 jobs. The surprise, happily, was to the upside: We gained 117,000 jobs. That doesn’t make it a good jobs report. It doesn’t even make it close.

We need to generate about 120,000 jobs a month simply to keep up with population growth. Below that, and we’re not recovering. We’re not even keeping up. In fact, if you doubled today’s jobs report, we’d still be looking at an achingly slow recovery. Adding 235,000 jobs a month wouldn’t return us to normal unemployment levels till 2015 or 2016.

The guts of the report don’t tell you much that’s new. As has been the case for about a year now, private-sector job growth was offset by public-sector job losses. In this case, the private-sector added 154,000 jobs but the public sector lost 37,000 jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that we added about 50,000 more jobs in May and June than we had thought. Good news, but that merely brings those months up to 53,000 and 46,000 respectively. Average out the last three months and we’re adding 72,000 jobs a month. That’s not recovering. That’s backsliding.

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Graphic: U.S. employment picture