Jobs Disappoint, Stocks Tank: The Numbers You Need to Know

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The Dow (Index: ^DIA) fell more than 230 points this morning after the monthly jobs report showed the economy didn't produce any jobs in August. None. Zero.

Reuters blogger Felix Salmon gets the award for explaining the reaction: "It's like GE's earnings circa Jack Welch, but in reverse." Constant disappointments, perpetual dismay.

It might not be quite as bad as it looks. Following a trend that's been ongoing for years, the private sector created 17,000 jobs (still awful, but positive), while governments cut payrolls. The numbers were skewed by a Verizon (NYS: VZ) strike that sent 45,000 workers off the job. Most are now back to work, and the losses should be reversed in next month's report.

Still, the overall jobs picture is about as awful as it's been in modern history. This chart, from the finance blog Calculated Risk, sums it up:

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Maybe most daunting, average hours and average wages for those who are working declined last month, falling by one-tenth of an hour and $0.03 an hour, respectively. This morning's Wall Street Journal noted that a one-tenth-of-an-hour increase in average workweeks creates the equivalent earnings boost of 320,000 jobs. Falling hours and declining wages had the opposite effect.

It's never good to take one month's jobs report too seriously. But after previous revisions, year to date the economy has created an average of 109,000 jobs a month . At best, that's enough to keep up with population growth, but not nearly enough to put a dent in the ranks of the unemployed.

Silver lining: This was the best August jobs report in five years, and the jobs situation is far better for those of prime working age, and with an education. Other than that, it's ugly, folks.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorMorgan Houselowns shares of Verizon. Follow him on Twitter @TMFHousel.Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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