Now for the good news: The unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, the lowest in four years. That's down from 7.6 percent last month and 8.2 percent last July.
Now for the bad news: Part of the reason for that decline is that fewer Americans were looking for work -- and thus not counted in the numbers -- and there were fewer jobs to look for. Job creation in July was only 162,000 jobs, and the job creation numbers for May and June were lowered by 26,000 on recalculation.
The economy has created an average of 200,000 jobs a month since January, a rate at which the economy makes real progress on unemployment. The pace has slowed to a minimally acceptable average of 175,000 jobs a month. Those looking for a soothing rationalization will note that job growth generally slows during summer.
And now for the news that's either good or bad depending where you stand. The anemic growth is probably not enough to make the Federal Reserve stop or slow its $85 billion a month bond-buying stimulus program. That's why the markets, which seem to typically overreact to these figures, slumped only slightly in early trading.
Instead of winding down the program in September, some analysts think the Fed will wait until December, not a bad idea considering the fragility of the numbers and the possibility that a new leader of the Fed may be in place.
And now for the news that is basically the same as last month's: The civilian labor force participation rate was little changed at 63.4 percent. The employment-to-population ratio was unchanged at 58.7 percent. The number of involuntary part-time workers was unchanged at 8.2 million. In July the number of workers only marginally attached to the workforce, meaning they would take a job if given one but only fitfully looked for work, was unchanged at 2.4 million.
Still, most sectors of the economy added jobs -- manufacturing, professional services, hospitality, retail and, finally, even local governments. Economically, it may feel like we're marching in place, but we're actually moving forward, although nowhere near as fast as we would like.
Dale McFeatters is a nationally syndicated columnist.