U.S. saw 130,000 new jobs in August, but blue-collar gains slowed

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FILE – In this Aug. 14, 2019, file photo company representatives from Verizon, Goodwill, Kaiser Permanente and UPS, right, talk with potential applicants during a job and resource fair in Atlanta. On Friday, Sept. 6, the U.S. government issues the August jobs report. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

“Really Good Jobs Numbers!” President Donald Trump tweeted yesterday. Yes, they were good, but not “really good.”

Employers hired 130,000 people in August, the Labor Department said Friday in its monthly employment report. That’s less than the 160,000 economists were predicting but still indicates an expanding economy.

“If you had any concerns about the labor market, you could take a breath, but I wouldn’t take a big one,” said Nick Bunker, economist for the job site Indeed.

The unemployment rate stayed flat, at 3.7%, still near historic lows, as more people entered the labor force. The numbers of employed people rose for all demographic groups except for African-Americans. Accounting for seasonal adjustments, 120,000 black workers left the labor force between July and August. That drove the black unemployment rate down to 5.5% in August — the lowest since the government started tracking it in 1972.

Wage growth kept its steady pace, with average hourly earnings increasing 3.2% from the previous August. Overall, earnings have grown more slowly since the end of last year, although wages have been growing slightly faster for workers lower in the jobs hierarchy.

The federal government hired 28,000 people last month, mostly in preparation for the 2020 Census. Private sector employers added 96,000 jobs — not great, but not bad for a decade-old economic recovery still chugging away.

June and July saw 20,000 fewer jobs created than the government’s initial estimates for the two months combined. In addition, the pace of job creation this year has slowed, with the economy adding an average of 158,000 jobs each month, down from 223,000 last year.

“While it’s slowing a little bit, the amount of jobs we’re adding on a monthly basis is more than enough to offset the additions to the labor force,” Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide, said this week. “We’re adding more jobs than the number of people entering into the labor force, and that’s eating away at the number of unemployed and underemployed people. That’s supporting consumer spending.”

Blue-collar industries, including manufacturing, construction and transportation and warehousing, stayed flat or slowed slightly, while mining shed jobs. That reflects the contraction in American manufacturing, which is suffering in the U.S.-China trade war. A separate report this week showed the sector’s first decline in three years.

About that tweet: On Thursday, the payroll processor ADP reported that private employers added a hefty 195,000 jobs in August — likely the statistic Mr. Trump referred to in his tweet Thursday morning not long after the markets opened.

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