August Jobs Report Misses Estimates, Market Reaction Muted

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Friday’s key economic data point came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment situation report for August. The unemployment rate ticked up from 4.3% in July to 4.4% and the U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in the month, well below expectations for around 180,000 new jobs. BLS cut its July estimate of new jobs created from 209,000 to 189,000 and trimmed the June total from 231,000 new jobs created to 210,000.

The stock market reacted cautiously to the report, paring some of its early gains, but only slightly. Basically, the BLS is reporting that the U.S. economy remains on its path of growth.

The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 62.9%, and the employment-to-population ratio ticked lower, from 60.2% to 60.1%, equal to the June rate.

The number of people not in the labor force rose slightly, from 94.66 million in July to 94.79 million in August. Year over year, the number of people not in the labor force rose from 94.35 million while the number of people who currently want a job rose from 5.42 million to 5.84 million.

Job gains occurred in manufacturing, construction, professional and technical services, health care and mining. Employment growth has averaged 176,000 per month thus far this year, in line with the average monthly gain in 2016 (+187,000). 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).

The average workweek for all employees was unchanged month over month at 34.5 hours. Average hourly earnings for all private, nonfarm employees rose by three cents to $26.39. Year over year, average hourly earnings rose by 2.5%.

August’s underemployment rate (the U-6 unemployment rate), which includes those out of work and those working part-time but who would like to have full-time work, stood at 8.6%, unchanged from July.

While August did not generate a sharp change in either direction, people are finding jobs, more people are looking for work, U.S. GDP growth appears to be on track and inflation remains below the Federal Reserve’s target range.