By Ian Swanson - 07/02/09 09:05 AM EDT
The economy continued to lose jobs in June, but the unemployment rate was relatively stable at 9.5 percent, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
The unemployment rate was 9.4 percent in May.
Since the recession began in December 2007, the number of unemployed has increased by 7.2 million and the unemployment rate has risen 4.6 percentage points.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 433,000 in June to 4.4 million.
The new statistics are certain to add to the debate in Washington over the $787 billion stimulus bill, which Republicans argue has done little to stave off job losses. The Obama administration has said the stimulus’s impact will be felt increasingly this year, and that without the stimulus the economy would be in worse shape.
While consumer confidence dropped in the latest surveys, the stock market had one of its best quarters ever and recent data suggested some improvements in manufacturing, suggesting the economy may be turning a corner.
The housing crisis at the heart of the recession also appears to be bottoming out, though declines in national home prices are expected to continue to fall. Combined with increased job losses, the dropping home values could force more people into foreclosure, putting additional pressure on the economy.
Gains in employment tend to lag behind other economic improvements, suggesting the unemployment rate will continue to rise. Many economists expect unemployment to reach double digits in the U.S. later this year.