Want the good news or the bad news first?
The good news, and it's just barely good: Private employers added 83,000 jobs in June, and the unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent, the lowest level in nearly a year.
The bad news: Overall, propelled by a wave of U.S. Census worker layoffs, about 125,000 jobs were lost, the most since October.
The numbers: Businesses added 83,000 workers, but the feds dropped 225,000 temporary Census positions. The economy needs to add 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with the growing population of working-age people.
The data make it clear that the economic recovery has far to go because 7.9 million fewer people work for private employers than when the recession began, according to the Labor Department report issued Friday.
The unemployment rate fell because 652,000 people abandoned their job hunts, so they were no longer counted.
"Although today's tepid jobs report meshes with our expectations that the economy will slow in the second half of this year, the bumpy transition from government stimulus-driven to private-sector-driven economic growth has us increasingly nervous about the durability of the recovery," said Ryan Sweet, an economist with Moody's Economy.com in West Chester.
"It appears businesses are still shell-shocked from the recession and financial crisis, making them hesitant to hire," he said.
In May, a report that the economy added 431,000 jobs buoyed hopes, but 411,000 were temporary hires for the Census project. Those jobs helped offset public-sector layoffs, particularly on the state and municipal level. The private sector added a paltry 33,000 jobs in May, revised downward from 41,000.
Friday's report on June employment comes as the U.S. Senate again declined to extend federal jobless benefits, making it unlikely that any legislation to help the unemployed will get to President Obama before Washington empties for the July Fourth holiday recess.
Citing U.S. Department of Labor statistics, the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group, estimates that 2.14 million jobless workers will exhaust their benefits before Congress returns to Washington after the holiday.
Obama said the economy was moving in the right direction, but not quickly enough. He seized on the latest data to push for more government stimulus - including the extension of jobless benefits - to aid the recovery.
"We're not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans," Obama said. "We're not headed there fast enough for me either."
Just more than 14.6 million workers are unemployed, and the average length of unemployment has now been lengthened to 35 weeks, the Labor Department reported, more than two months longer than the 26 weeks of unemployment benefits that many states provide.
"If it gets any worse, we're going back to the Depression," said Jerome Stone, 56, an unemployed health-care worker who had been out of work for 18 months when he attended a June 23 rally at City Hall to advocate for more jobless benefits. "If things don't get better, I'll be walking the streets like the homeless. That's my biggest fear."
Although mass layoff notices are slowing, they are continuing. On Thursday, Chrysler Financial Services Americas L.L.C. said it would close its customer-service center in Chalfont, Bucks County, putting 290 people out of work effective Aug. 31. "We have a dramatically declining portfolio," said Kelly Mankin, company spokesman.
Besides government, construction continued its slide, declining 22,000 jobs in a month and 447,000 since last June. Other losing sectors include retail, financial services (in particular, insurance), real estate, and information.
Temporary hiring boosted the professional and business-services category. But hiring has declined in architecture, engineering, and computer-systems design, which means a continued dearth of the kind of capital investment that leads to new projects and more hiring. Still, there are signs of job growth.
Employment increased in manufacturing, transportation, education, health, and leisure and hospitality.
"There isn't mass volume per company," said Mark Basla, vice president of marketing at the Delaware Valley Industrial Resources Center, an organization that assists manufacturers. "It's starting to trickle in. It's small, but it's in the right direction."
For example, Cer-Mac Inc., a 35-employee custom manufacturing company in Telford, laid off four people over the course of the recession, including two in production.
"Business has picked up a bit," said Joseph Cero, vice president. A full-time machinist started earlier in June, and a part-time worker will begin after the holidays, with hopes of expanding the job to full time in a few weeks. The company is advertising for a third production worker.
The Neiman Group, an advertising and public-relations agency based in Harrisburg, added a half-dozen people to expand its Philadelphia office. Kirsten Farkas, 24, started June 14 as a new account coordinator after searching for four months.
"I was surprised at how long it took," she said. Friends had warned her about the tough job market.
"The job market is better than it appears," said Rich Milgram, president of Beyond.com, a company based in King of Prussia that operates 15,000 job boards, including phillyjobs.com and nurses.com. Milgram said that, although job postings were up, companies were waiting to make sure finances were secure before hiring.
"The fact that it is a slow recovery," Milgram said, "means it is a stable recovery, which is good news."