Net total jobs added in August: Zero

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Last Updated 8:50 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON - Employers added no net workers last month and the unemployment rate was unchanged, a sign that many were nervous the U.S. economy is at risk of slipping into another recession.

The Labor Department said total payrolls were unchanged in August, the weakest report in almost a year.

It's the first time since February 1945 that the government has reported a net job change of zero. The unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced.

CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports that nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged in August, and employment in most major industries changed little. Health care continued to add jobs, while government employment continued to trend down.

Weak growth, a downgrade of long-term U.S. debt in early August and a sell-off on Wall Street likely kept some businesses from hiring.

Manufacturers cut 3,000 jobs, its first decline since October 2010. Construction companies, retailers, and transportation firms also cut workers.

A strike by 45,000 Verizon workers lowered the job totals. Those workers are back on the job.

In all the private sector added 17,000 jobs - the fewest since February 2010. That compares with 156,000 in July and 75,000 in June.

The number of long-term unemployed (out of work for 27 weeks or longer) was unchanged in August, at 6.0 million, and accounted for 42.9% of the unemployed.

Job gains in June and July were revised lower, to show 57,000 fewer jobs added. The downward revisions were all in government jobs.

The average work week also declined and hourly earnings fell by 3 cents to $23.09.

The report may dampen expectations for the economy to pick up in the second half of the year. With hiring stagnant and wages declining, consumers won't see much gain in incomes. That will limit their ability to spend, which undercuts economic growth. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.

The economy expanded at an annual pace of only 0.7 percent in the first six months of the year. That was the slowest six months of growth since the recession officially ended in June 2009.

Most economists forecast that growth may improve to about a 2 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter. But that's not fast enough to generate many jobs.

The economy's weakness was underscored Thursday by the Obama administration, which estimated that unemployment will average about 9 percent next year, when President Barack Obama will run for re-election. The rate was 7.8 percent when Mr. Obama took office.

The White House Office of Management and Budget projects overall growth of only 1.7 percent this year.

Next week, President Obama will deliver a rare address to a joint session of Congress to introduce a plan for creating jobs and boosting economic growth

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