Nonfarm payrolls fell for a third consecutive month in August, pushing the number of jobs lost during that period past a quarter million, according to Labor Department data released Friday.

Nonfarm payrolls lost 54,000 jobs in August even though private nonfarm payrolls grew by 67,000, as the federal government continued to shed Census workers. Payrolls for Census workers fell by 114,000 and total government employment was diminished by 121,000.

Economists expected total nonfarm payrolls to decrease by 131,000 in August, matching the originally reported figure for July. That figure was revised upward to show a 54,000 decline for July. Nonfarm payrolls fell 175,000 in June. The unemployment rate rose to 9.6% in August from 9.5% in July.

“The unemployment rate edged up to 9.6% as more workers entered the labor force than could find jobs,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial. “On net, it looks like we added an average of a little more than 90,000 jobs per month since the start of the year, which is better than losing jobs, but a far cry from the estimated 150,000 jobs per month that we will need to accommodate workers entering the labor force, let alone the increase in hiring that we will need to absorb all those who have already lost a job.”

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