Jobs-in-Focus

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The U.S. economy added 215,000 jobs last month, which was shy of the number forecast by economists who had been looking for 220,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.3 percent. For black men over the age of 20, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent from 9.5 percent. For black women of the same age, the unemployment rate rose slightly from 7.9 to 8.0 percent over the past month. This remains almost double the national rate of unemployment in July. For black youth specifically, ages 16 to 19, the jobless rate decreased from 31.8 percent to 28.7 percent. 

Most gains occurred in retail trade, health care, professional and technical services, and financial activities, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its latest employment survey.

For June, the Labor Department announced 223,000 jobs added; a figure that was revised upward to 231,000 in the latest report. The unemployment rate declined slightly, to 5.3 percent in that month.

Over the past two years, our economy has created 5.7 million jobs, the strongest two-year job growth since 2000. Our businesses have created 13.0 million jobs over the past 65 straight months, extending the longest streak on record. But despite the rapid pace of recent growth, some slack is still left over from the financial crisis and continues to puts a damper on our labor market in both full employment for all and in the form of wage increases. More work needs to be done to ensure we continue to make progress, but we’re headed in the right direction.

The average hourly wage increased by 5 cents an hour, to $24.99. Over the past year, the hourly wage has risen by 2.1 percent, but that’s half the rate of home appreciation and why continued growth in housing is unsustainable unless the slack rate can be addressed. The average work week for private, non-farm payrolls also edged up slightly, to 34.6 hours in July from 34.5 hours in June.

Some 29,000 jobs were added in food services, 28,000 jobs in health care, 27,000 in professional and technical services, 15,000 in manufacturing and 14,000 in transportation. The mining sector lost 5,000 jobs.

This week’s report provides a critical piece of information for the Federal Reserve as it considers whether the economy can withstand an increase in its benchmark interest rate. The nation’s central bank generally raises its target rate when it is trying to rein in an overheating economy and lowers it when it wants to stimulate activity. At near zero rate of nearly 6.5 years a small interest rate increase is likely, even with the being just shy of economist estimates this month.”

Fed policymakers said last week that they wanted to see some further improvement in the job market before they raise rates, so we’ll have to wait and what they think about the most recent numbers. Mortgage rates have surprisingly fallen under four percent over the past couple weeks, so if you’ve been thinking about locking a rate sooner than later is probably the best choice.

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