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Jobs numbers: Beyond the stats

There were 288,000 new positions added in June, but what’s behind it? Where are jobs and wages strong and weak?

The headlines are positive: Employers added 288,000 jobs last month, the fifth straight month of employment gains above 200,000. While it is good news, the overall economic scenario has far to go in recovery.

The country’s unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point, to 6.1 percent — a hopeful sign that some green shoots are appearing in the American economy.

Hidden in the details of the jobs numbers is the story of the changes the Great Recession made in the economy. Again, the majority of new jobs came in the form of low-paying work.

Retail gained 40,000 new jobs last month. The leisure and hospitality sectors gained 39,000. Manufacturing jobs increased by 16,000. Construction saw 6,000 more positions.

So what about higher-paying jobs? Those numbers increased too, but lagged behind their lower-wage counterparts.

Inside Story/Al Jazeera America

The construction sector is often seen as a bellwether, because it has a multiplier effect: People buying new houses need to buy more things like furniture and appliances.

It's also important to look at wages as you analyze this jobs report. In June, real wages rose just six cents an hour, about in line with inflation. The average worker now pulls in $24.45 an hour. Low-wage workers in this economy don’t do nearly that well.

Despite the uneven recovery, Wall Street is optimistic. Buoyed by the job numbers, the stock market closed in record territory, with the Dow at 17,068.

So yes, many more Americans have reason to celebrate this holiday weekend — because they're working again. However, it’s likely the new job pays less than the old one, and there are still millions who've been out of work more than six months — a persistent problem hanging over from the recession.

Who is making out best in the Great Recession’s recovery?

Who is still struggling?

Where are the job markets that are weak and strong?

We consulted a panel of experts for the Inside Story.

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