More jobs were created in July in the US, but the unemployment rate there went up.
US companies hired the most workers in five months -163,000 – which was better than economists had predicted.
However the pace is not picking up and it is not enough to make a significant dent in the total of 12.8 million Americans who are out of work.
The unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent of the working population from 8.2 percent in June.
It has been over eight percent for more than three years.
That boosted expectations for additional stimulus moves by the US central bank, the Federal Reserve.
Many economists expect the Fed to opt to print money to buy government bonds at its next policy meeting on mid September.
US economic growth – at an annual pace of 1.5 percent in the second quarter of this year – was far short of what is needed to keep the unemployment rate stable.
US retailers have just reported stronger-than-expected sales for July, but said that was largely due to discounting rather than improving consumer confidence.
US President Barack Obama used the jobs numbers for political ends.
He welcomed the data showing employers kept hiring in July but said there were still too many Americans without jobs, and warned that Republican tax plans would hurt the middle class at a still-sensitive time.
“We’ve still got too many folks out there who are looking for work, we’ve got more work to do on their behalf,” Obama, said at an event at the White House where he pitched his own plan to keep middle class taxes low and raise rates on the very rich.
“The last thing that we should be doing is asking middle class families who are still struggling to recover from this recession to pay more in taxes. Rebuilding this strong economy begins with rebuilding our middle class,” Obama said.
The sluggish labour market spells trouble for the president in November’s election.
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 36 percent of registered voters believe Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a better plan for the economy, compared to 31 percent who had faith in Obama’s policies.
Romney said the rise in the jobless rate was “a hammer blow to struggling middle-class families.”
The White House tried to put the numbers in the best possible light, stressing the jobless rate was “essentially unchanged” despite the rise from 8.2 percent to 8.3 percent.
“Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the US economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression,” Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said.
He also noted that although the unemployment rate ticked up, “more precisely, the rate rose from 8.217 percent in June to 8.254 in July.”