The jobless rate fell to 9.5 percent in June, still far too high to signal a healthy economy. It came in slightly lower than the month before only because more than a half-million people gave up looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.
The private sector added just 83,000 jobs in June, with the recovery limping along as it enters the year's second half. And that is when the benefits of most of the government's stimulus spending will begin to wear off.
Overall, the nation's total payroll actually shrank last month by 125,000, the first decline in six months, the Labor Department said Friday. The loss reflected the end of 225,000 temporary jobs helping the Census Bureau complete its 10-year head count.
The 83,000 jobs added by the private sector was a better performance than in May, when private job creation nearly stalled. But it's far short of what the economy needs - at least 200,000 jobs a month - to bring down the unemployment rate.