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The Boston Globe

Business

Most new jobs in July were low paying, part time

WASHINGTON — The 162,000 jobs the economy added in July were a disappointment. The quality of the jobs was even worse.

A disproportionate number of the added jobs were part time or low paying — or both.

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Part-time work accounted for more than 65 percent of the positions employers added in July. Low-paying retailers, restaurants, and bars supplied more than half July’s job gain.

‘‘You’re getting jobs added, but they might not be the best-quality job,’’ said John Canally, an economist with LPL Financial in Boston.

So far this year, low-paying industries have provided 61 percent of the nation’s job growth, even though these industries represent just 39 percent of overall US jobs, according to Labor Department numbers analyzed by Moody’s Analytics. Mid-paying industries have contributed just 22 percent of this year’s job gain.

‘‘The jobs that are being created are not generating much income,’’ Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA, wrote to clients.

That is one reason Americans’ pay has not kept up with even historically low inflation since the Great Recession ended in June 2009. Average hourly pay fell 2 cents in July to $23.98 an hour.

Part-time work has made up 77 percent of the job growth so far this year. The government defines part-time work as being less than 35 hours a week.

Weak economies overseas have reduced demand for US goods and, as a result, for better-paying US jobs in manufacturing. Government spending cuts have taken a toll on some middle-class jobs, too.

Many employers have also discovered that they can use technology to do tasks more cheaply and efficiently than office workers used to do. And some have found that they can shift middle-class jobs to low-wage countries such as China.

By contrast, most lower-paying jobs — from waiters and hotel maids to store clerks, bartenders, and home health care aides — cannot be automated or shipped abroad.

‘‘You’re always going to have jobs in the retail sector,’’ said Michael Evangelist, a policy analyst with the liberal National Employment Law Project, which advocates on behalf of low-wage workers.

Not all July’s new jobs were low-paying. Local schools hired more than 10,000 teachers and other employees. Financial companies added 15,000.

The surge in part-time employment began in April.

Jason Furman, the new chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, said part-time employment has been inflated by the across-the-board budget cuts that began to bite in March, forcing some federal workers to take time off without pay.

Analysts say some employers are offering part-time over full-time work to sidestep the new health care law’s rule that they provide medical coverage for permanent workers. (The Obama administration has delayed that provision for a year and into 2015.)

But Furman disputed the idea that the health care law will ever drive companies to favor part-timers over full-timers and said the notion makes even less sense now: ‘‘Why would they shift people to part time for something that’s not going to happen until 2015?’’

Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West, said he thinks concerns about the rise in part-time work are overblown. The government’s figures on part-time jobs are highly volatile, Anderson said. The big gain this year could quickly reverse, he said.

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