US Employment Takes a Half-Step Backward in August

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the US economy added 156,000 jobs in August, which is down from June and July totals, and fell short of expectations.

Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 156,000 in August, a modest slowdown from the prior two months, the Labor Department said Friday. The U.S. economy added 36,000 manufacturing jobs in August, 28,000 construction jobs and 6,000 mining jobs (including jobs in oil and gas extraction).

In August, the average hourly earnings rose by 3 cents to 26.39 USA dollars, after rising by 9 cents in the previous month.


The BLS noted in its report that Hurricane Harvey had "no [discernible] effect" on the employment data for August.

The smaller than expected increase in employment was partly due to a notable slowdown in the pace of job growth in the service-providing sector, which added just 95,000 jobs in August. Manufacturing has added 155,000 jobs since President Trump was elected in November 2016, which was a low point for the sector.

August was expected to be a weak month for job creation, but it was worse than that. The revisions for June and July were both lower, and combined they show a net loss of about 41,000 jobs.


Lewis Alexander, chief US economist at Nomura, said low productivity growth and other structural factors will hold down overall economic growth in a Friday research note.

Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial, predicts that job growth in the coming months "will weaken substantially" in the wake of Harvey, only to rebound quickly as workers who were temporarily laid off are rehired. In August, job gains occurred in computer systems design and related services (+8,000). Pay raises typically average 3.5% to 4% when the unemployment rate is this low.

Wage growth slowed in August, the statistics show. Average weekly hours were actually down, sufficiently so as to drive average weekly earnings down from last month's report.


Some economists say a stable participation rate is a positive sign for the economy in recent years, since retirements mean it should in theory be falling slightly. Though that isn't much, it nonetheless won't help a labor market that is losing steam.


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