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Job seekers speak with a construction company recruiter as they and others look for construction work.
The national jobs picture was static in August without a single new job added, something that hasn’t happened since the 1940s. The news comes just in time to throw a pall over the Labor Day holiday weekend.
There was no net growth in jobs in August and the nation's unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday morning.
"It's not the kind of jobs report you want going into a holiday weekend that's supposed to be celebrating the American worker," KPCC's economy blogger Matt DeBord told Steve Julian. "The American worker got a kind of slap in the face by this jobs report."
The new numbers have economists wondering: Are we in some kind of stagnation, are we in a stasis?
"In Southern California in particular this is a big issue," DeBord said. "Because 9.1 percent unemployment at the national level is far exceeded by 12 percent unemployment in California and 12.4 percent locally here in Southern California."
The news is particularly hard on those who worked in California's once booming construction industry, who were hard hit by the housing bust.
"We have a large number of unemployed people who used to work in the construction trade," said DeBord. "It's actually at a state of crisis for that group. These people may choose to leave the state. These people may choose to move on to other professions if construction doesn't come back, and it doesn't look like it's going to."
The latest sign that the labor market remains weak comes as President Obama prepares to lay out his plan for boosting job growth during an address to Congress next Thursday — and as the Republicans vying to run against him next year offer their alternatives.
NPR's Mark Memmot & KPCC's Eric Zassenhaus contributed to this report