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Housing Industries Freeze Alongside Zero Job Growth

Reacting to numerous crises at home and abroad, the economy shed as many employees as it brought on in August, leading to a startling net gain of zero jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis. Housing sectors showed no signs of immunity to fears of a recession, wobbly euro zone countries, and bipolar stock markets.

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According to the ""Bureau of Labor Statistics"":http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t17.htm, which releases payroll reports on a monthly basis, total nonfarm employment stayed unchanged at 131,132,000 from the past month. Adding insult to injury, unemployment remained at a towering 9.1 percent, a ""Labor Department"":http://www.dol.gov/ found Thursday. Even so, fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits, with applications plunging by some 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 409,000.

Employment figures in the construction, financial, and real estate sectors tracked the poor jobs report by lurching back and forward over August.

Signaling how poorly the construction industry continues to fare, fewer homebuilders hired new help, with total employees sliding from 5,529,000 in July to 5,524,000 in August. A 2.6-percent drop hit payroll numbers for workers in the building construction industry, with 1,220,000 employees over July falling to 1,218,000 over the last month.

Jobs in the residential building construction sector slipped to 558,000 from 555,000, while those in nonresidential building construction saw a few new faces, with 662,000 reported in July inching forward to 663,000 over August.

Meanwhile, employment numbers for the heavy and civil engineering construction industry, which saw gains over the summer, slumped to 841,000 in August from 846,000 over the month before. Specialty trade contractors in the residential sector saw gains as their numbers jumped from 1,464,000 from to 1,457,000, alongside nearly unchanged figures for nonresidential contractors.

Speaking with _MReport_, Paul Dales, a senior U.S. economist with ""Capital Economics"":http://www.capitaleconomics.com/, chalks up the ebb in home construction to housing starts.

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He credits bad weather and chronically low demand for the slow housing starts, which the ""Commerce Department"":http://www.commerce.gov/ revealed slumping to a seasonally adjusted 597,000 over July, a 3.2-percent decline from June.

""Fewer homes are being constructed at the moment, and that means you need fewer people to construct them,"" Dales says, adding he ""wouldn't be surprised to see construction employment uptick a bit in the wake of Hurricane Irene,"" with the bigger picture still showing that ""housing starts will remain weak and so will employment.""

Mirroring feelings of uncertainty across the economy, payrolls for finance and insurance companies likewise remained static.

Mortgage giants likely helped little, with ""Bank of America"":https://www.bankofamerica.com/ announcing that it plans to wind down a Countrywide Financial Corp. mortgage-correspondent unit still afflicted with bad mortgage-backed securities.

A ""MortgageDaily.com"":http://www.mortgagedaily.com/ survey more recently ""found"":https://themreport.com/articles/more-q2-layoffs-for-mortgage-professionals-2011-08-30 ""Wells Fargo"":https://www.wellsfargo.com/ culpable for some 2,500 job losses over the second quarter this year.

Coupled with an increase in interest for rental units, a seasonal drive in the residential sector accelerated the number of new faces in real estate, rental services, and leasing services.

Real estate, rental, and leasing payrolls leapt to nearly 2 million in August from about 1,940,000 reported over July.

Real estate sector jobs rose modestly on the whole, with a 1.3-percent uptick pushing total employment to 1,406,000 over August, up from 1,404 in July.

The bad news about jobs naturally made its way to the Obama administration, which tried to head off the bad news Thursday and help manage deteriorating expectations by forecasting more trouble ahead for the still-pale jobs market.

""President Barack Obama"":http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/president-obama/ will propose a talked-about federal jobs package next Thursday. New federal stimulus measures come on the heels of a rumored refinance plan, which multiple news outlets allege would allow homeowners across the country to alter the debt obligations for their mortgages under current rates.

Asked how much trouble overseas played into hiring decisions over August, Dales answers by saying he feels ""there has been concern about euro zone markets but there has also been a general reassessment about what happened to the U.S. economy. People thought a recovery was here to stay but people are now questioning that, and that is the main factor driving equity prices lower.""

About Author: Ryan Schuette

Ryan Schuette is a journalist, cartoonist, and social entrepreneur with several years of experience in real-estate news, international reporting, and business management. He currently lives in the Washington, D.C., area, where he freelances for DS News and MReport.
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