Three years after the official end of the recession, the nation's payrolls added 80,000 jobs in June, well short of the 100,000 to 150,000 jobs that economists say are necessary each month to keep up with population growth.
The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.2 percent, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday.
The recession, which rocked the nation's economy and is still influencing business and consumer spending, began in December 2007 and ended, officially, in June 2009.
"We're three years past the end of the recession, and for many Americans, the recovery has never shown up," said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte.
"We've been consistently adding jobs," said Heidi Shierholz, a labor market economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "But we've been adding what we need to roughly tread water. It's not what we need to dig out. It's just what we need to hang on."
Stock markets fell in response to the news. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 124.20 points at 12,772.47.
In June, the U.S. Labor Department reported, jobs were added in manufacturing and construction.
The information sector, which includes publishing, telecommunications, broadcasting and the motion picture and sound recording industries, lost 8,000 jobs.
Financial and business and professional services employment grew, although within that sector accounting took a hit of 4,200 jobs, offset by growth of 6,600 jobs in computer systems design and related services. Temporary employment continued to grow.
Education and health services, usually an employment stalwart - particularly in this region - grew by a measly 2,000 jobs, with hiring in health offset by 9,600 job cuts in educational services, which includes hiring at colleges and universities.
Public school hiring declined, along with government hiring at nearly every level, but particularly for state and federal government jobs.
Retailing declined, with the biggest drops in department and general merchandise stores, reflecting a general cutback in consumer spending.
To Kurt Rankin, an economist at the PNC Financial Services Group, the drop in retail spending is emblematic of what has been happening since the recession ended.
"Consumer psychology was impacted dramatically and is still suffering from the lingering aftereffects," he said. Scared by what they saw, Americans are putting their money into reducing their personal debt, rebuilding retirement nest eggs, and increasing their savings, he said.
"We're stuck with a slow-stall speed recovery," Rankin said, "and that's kept hiring and consumer spending from breaking free."
Friday's results were particularly disappointing after Thursday's optimistic trio of portents:
There was the survey from the ADP payroll company showing the addition of 176,000 jobs in June, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas' news that June's announced job cuts were the lowest in a year, and the report that first-time claims for unemployment had dropped for the week ending June 23.
The bad news in June's Labor Department report included an increase in the "U-6" statistic - the measurement of the miserable - to 14.9 percent. That's all the unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus part-time workers who would like full-time work, and others marginally associated with the labor force.
The "U-6" rate is down from 16.2 percent a year ago, but up from 14.8 percent in May.
"We may be suffering through a major heat wave, but the economy is cooling off," said Bucks County economist Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisers. "With so much uncertainty about the world economy and politics, businesses have decided the best course is to do very little."
The average length of unemployment grew to 39.9 weeks, up from 39.7 in May and virtually unchanged since 39.8 weeks in June 2011, a testimony to the unrelenting difficulty that the long-term unemployed have in finding jobs.
The median length of unemployment, which is the amount of time it takes most people to find work, has fallen a little more than two weeks in a year, from 22.1 weeks to 19.8 weeks.
Of the 12.7 million unemployed, up 29,000 from May, 41.9 percent have been out of work for more than 27 weeks. Federal emergency unemployment benefits are due to expire at the end of the year, meaning that those who now become unemployed can expect to receive only 26 weeks of benefits, assuming that they qualify.