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Even In Rich Countries, Jobs Have Returned Only At A 'Painful' Pace

People wait in a branch of France's national employment agency Pole Emploi, where a board read "reception without appointment" April 27 in Montpellier, southern France. While the economy is healthier in France than other European countries, unemployment remains above 10 percent.

With the Great Recession now over for seven years, how is job growth coming along in the world's wealthiest countries?


In fact, it has been "painfully slow," according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Labor markets have been held down by a "low-growth trap characterized by low investment, anemic productivity gains and weak job creation with stagnant wages," it said Thursday.

The Paris-based forum, made up of 35 democracies with market economies, released its annual employment assessment. It found that three-quarters of OECD countries are still running high levels of unemployment. For example, in Greece, France, Italy, Portugal, the Slovak Republic and Spain, the jobless rate remains in double digits.

Results have been far better in the United States, where the unemployment rate is back down to 4.7 percent. That's the same rate recorded in November 2007, just before the recession began.

On Friday, the Labor Department will release employment figures for June. The May report was extremely disappointing, showing employers added just 38,000 jobs for the month. Economists are predicting a rebound for June, with a Wall Street Journal poll showing most expect about 165,000 new jobs, a hiring pace more in line with results of the past several years.

Even if it turns out May was just a fluke, there's reason to be less than thrilled with the U.S. labor market. While job growth has been "quite strong" in the United States, "the share of working-age adults who are employed remains 3.4 percentage points below its pre-crisis level," the OECD report said.

In other words, millions of discouraged Americans have given up job searches and declared themselves disabled or retired.

And the report says that "even in countries where labor market slack has been absorbed, low quality jobs and a high level of labor market inequality are of concern."

The OECD recommends that countries adopt "high-performance work practices" that boost productivity, "such as team work, job rotation, bonus pay and flexibility in working hours."

It also said "many disadvantaged youth require a co-ordinated package of services to allow them to surmount a variety of barriers to a successful integration into employment, including health problems, skills deficits and social isolation."

The countries with unemployment rates below 5 percent, in addition to the United States, include: the Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Norway and Switzerland.

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