BLS Data Shows the Endless Gains in Payrolls Are Becoming More Muted

After seeing the tally of weekly jobless claims and a stronger than expected private sector payrolls gain for August from ADP, the stage was set for a stronger than expected gain in nonfarm payrolls on Friday. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by 130,000 in August. That was softer than the 150,000 nonfarm payrolls consensus from Dow Jones and the 160,000 from Econoday.

The unemployment rate came in as expected given all consensus estimates tracked, flat at a very low 3.7%.

Where things get a little sloppy in the August payrolls report is that the private sector added just 96,000 payrolls in August. The government sector added 34,000 payrolls, due to a surge of Census hires.

There might be nothing necessarily wrong with the gain, but it is lower than the roughly 155,000 average of the prior three months. Some might say the strength of the job market is losing some steam but still holding steady.

One bit of good news was seen in the labor force participation rates, which rose to 63.2% in August from 63.0% in July, and the average hourly workweek ticked back up to 34.4 hours from July’s 34.3 hours per week.

Average hourly earnings rose by 0.4% from the prior month, and that put wages up 3.2% from August of 2018.

July’s payrolls were revised as well, with nonfarm payrolls lowered to 159,000 from 164,000 and with private sector payrolls lowered to 131,000 from 148,000.

With a less than robust job growth figure, and one that is disappointing considering that the ADP release had juiced expectations somewhat, it would be easy to refer to a state of stagflation at a time when many other economic readings are coming in weak from concerns about the U.S. and China trade war.

This report also sets the stage for some of the “wait and see” members of the Federal Reserve to have a bit more say when it comes to not cutting interest rates later this month just because the stock and bond market have called for a cut.

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