The Labor Department released its initial employment report for August, and it showed a topline job loss of 54,000. When you take out the 114,000 jobs lost by the Census, you get a modest uptick in private payrolls of 67,000 jobs.

In addition, the June and July numbers were revised up:

“The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised from -221,000 to -175,000, and the change for July was revised from -131,000 to -54,000.”

Census layoffs proved a drag on all three of these months, so the labor picture isn’t as bad as the topline numbers. However, what you’re seeing is a flat lateral move, with not enough hiring to keep up with population.

The topline unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 9.6%. The employment-population ratio was basically unchanged at 58.5%. And there are still 2.4 million Americans “marginally attached” to the labor force, basically workers who aren’t actively seeking jobs because they see nothing out there for them.

Private-sector employment for the year has risen 763,000, which is less than 100,000 a month. And state and local governments have cut jobs in that time, so the real number is even lower. That’s just not enough employment to keep up with population. We’ve been in mostly a holding pattern all year.

This necessitates a major jobs program, especially as the stimulus package finishes up. And the Administration is reportedly working on something. More on that in a moment.

And more on the employment summary from Calculated Risk.

UPDATE: I thought yesterday was Christina Romer’s last day, but she had this to say on the job numbers (via email):

Against the backdrop of some unsettling economic data in the past few weeks, today’s numbers are reassuring that growth and recovery are continuing. At the same time, the fact that the growth of private sector payrolls is below the level needed to keep up with normal growth of the labor force is obviously unacceptable. There are a number of step we could take to help increase private sector job growth and put the economy on a path of steadily declining unemployment. We will be working with Congress on these measures in the coming weeks.

We’re moving sideways. It’s not sustainable.