WASHINGTON The nation lost jobs for a sixth month in a row in June a storm of pink slips drenching this year's July Fourth holiday for more than 60,000 Americans and leaving thousands more worried about the future.
Weighed down by energy prices and the housing crisis, employers laid off workers in stores, factories and forsaken building sites.
With more job cuts expected in coming months, there's growing concern that many people will pull back on their spending later this year, when the bracing effect of the tax rebates fades, dealing a dangerous setback to the shaky economy. These worries are rekindling recession fears.
"The deteriorating jobs climate will dampen many a barbecue this weekend. It's hard to celebrate when you are out of a job," said Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research.
In June alone, employers got rid of 62,000 jobs, bringing total losses so far this year close to a staggering half-million 438,000, according to the Labor Department's report released Thursday. The economy needs to generate more than 100,000 new jobs a month for employment to remain stable.
The jobless rate held steady at 5.5 percent after jumping in May by the most in two decades. Still, June's jobless rate was considerably higher than the 4.6 percent of a year ago. The unemployment rate is expected to climb through the rest of this year and top 6 percent early next year.
Just in the past few days, Chrysler LLC said it would close a plant and Starbucks Corp. said it would shut some 600 stores in the next year, meaning more lost jobs ahead. American Airlines recently said it may cut flight attendant jobs.
When companies do have openings, job hunters are in for more competition.
There were 8.5 million unemployed people as of June, up from 7 million a year earlier.
Heavy job losses were reported in construction, manufacturing and financial services the worst casualties of the housing, credit and financial debacles. Cutbacks also came in retailing, temporary help, trucking, publishing and elsewhere. That more than swamped job gains in other places, including health care, education, hotels, bars and restaurants and the government.