WASHINGTON — Hiring slowed to a near-standstill last month, raising doubts that the economy will rebound in the second half of the year.
The report baffled economists who had predicted much stronger job creation.
Just 18,000 net jobs were created in June, the fewest in nine months. The unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, the highest rate of the year, the Labor Department said Friday.
Friday's report suggested that a slowdown that struck the economy in the spring and curtailed job creation may be more than brief.
"June's employment report doesn't have a single redeeming feature," said Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics. "It's awful from start to finish."
Two years after the recession officially ended, companies are adding fewer workers despite record cash stockpiles and healthy profit margins.
A result is that more people are giving up looking for work. More than a quarter-million people stopped their job searches in June. That kept the unemployment rate from rising even further. When laid-off workers stop looking for work, they are no longer counted as unemployed.
Including discouraged workers and those working part time, but who would prefer full-time work, the "under-employment" rate jumped from 15.8 percent to 16.2 percent.
Companies have pulled back sharply on hiring after adding an average of 215,000 jobs per month from February through April. The economy typically needs to add 125,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth.