The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell ever so slightly last week to a seasonally adjusted 382,000, which, of course, indicates the job market is still dangerously weak.
"The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, rose 2,000 to 377,750 — the highest level since June. It was the fifth consecutive weekly increase in the measure," CNBC reports.
Employers added a paltry 96,000 jobs last month, 9,000 of which were striking utilities workers returning to work, below the 141,000 in July and much lower than the average 226,000 added in the first three months of the year. Recent job gains are barely enough to keep up with the growth of the working age population and aren't enough to rapidly drive down unemployment.
"Businesses clearly remain reluctant to aggressively boost their workforces," said Jim Baird, chief investment strategist at Plante Moran Financial Advisors, in a note to clients.
The unemployment rate dropped in August to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent. But that was only because fewer people were looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployment if they are actively looking for work.
Watch CNBC’s Rick Santelli discuss today’s figures:
"The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 32,000 to 3.27 million in the week ended Sept. 8, the claims report showed," the CNBC report continues. "That was the lowest level since mid-May and most likely reflected people exhausting their benefits."
The economy isn't growing fast enough to support much more hiring. It grew at a tepid 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, down from 2 percent in the January-March quarter and 4.1 percent in the final three months of last year.
Growth isn't likely to get much better for the rest of this year. Economists expect the economy to grow at a roughly 2 percent pace.
High unemployment and sluggish growth prompted the Federal Reserve last week to announce several major steps to boost the economy (QE3). Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed will buy $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities every month until there is "substantial" improvement in the job market.
Bernanke said at a news conference that high unemployment is "a grave concern" that causes "enormous suffering."
Oh, yeah, and in case you forgot: the Fed’s open-ended, unlimited QE3 resulted in another credit downgrade for the U.S.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report. Front page photo courtesy the AP.