Job Growth Slumps In August


The U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in August as unemployment ticked up slightly to 4.4 percent, federal economists reported Friday.

Average hourly wages rose 3 cents last month to $26.39, up 2.5 percent from a year ago.

The growth missed expectations, as analysts had expected economists would report approximately 200,000 new jobs in August.

The report does not include any effects from Hurricane Harvey and the devastation it unleashed in Texas, as the collection of the data used for the report was completed before the storm struck.

Employees worked a bit less in August, with the average workweek falling .3 percent to 34.4 hours.

Last month marked a slowdown in hiring and another period of tepid wage growth, but overall the economy continues down a healthy stretch of steady if unspectacular improvement.

Data show the manufacturing, construction, healthcare and mining industries all grew.

Manufacturing swelled by 36,000 positions, with most of the growth coming from auto part production, fabricated metal products and computer gear. The sector has generated 155,000 jobs since last November.

Construction employment jumped by 28,000 in August after budging little over the last five months. Work for residential contractors drove the growth, climbing by 12,000 jobs.

Opportunities in healthcare, meanwhile, continued to proliferate: August brought 20,000 more jobs in one of the country’s fastest-growing fields.

Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC, said August’s relatively modest progress reflects no sign of serious trouble ahead. The labor market, he said, is tightening, which often makes it harder for employers to fill vacant positions.

“Businesses are seeing stronger demand, and they need more workers to keep up with that,” he said. “We’re putting up more houses. We’re manufacturing more things. Consumers are buying more goods and services.”

The biggest disappointment, he said, is workers still aren’t enjoying a significant pay raise: Wage growth has crawled along for much of this year.

“You’d think with businesses saying ‘we can’t hire, we can’t hire’ they’d be raising wages, but they seem reluctant to do so,” Faucher said.

Some of that is probably overhang from the recession, he said. Then there’s the younger, cheaper workers who are replacing rapidly retiring baby boomers.

Federal economists have revised down their estimate of how many jobs were created in July and June by a combined total of 41,000. They now estimate 189,000 jobs were created in July and 210,000 jobs were created in June.

Since Trump took office in January, the economy has added 1,189,000 jobs, a pace the president has called “excellent.” That’s about 170,000 net job gains a month, a tick slower than the 187,000 a month average last year under President Barack Obama.

There’s a lot of debate about how much credit any president, Republican or Democrat, should get for job growth. Trump has yet to achieve any major legislative victories, but regardless of who deserves the credit, hiring has remained strong.

The jobs report, which is released by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, comes from two separate surveys. One, which produces the widely used figure of employment growth, comes from a survey of employers. The second, which is used to calculate the unemployment rate, comes from a survey of households.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post ยท Danielle Paquette



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