US employers add 157,000 jobs, jobless rate hits 3.9 pct

Job seekers apply for the 300 available positions at a new Target retail store in San Francisco

US employers add 157,000 jobs, jobless rate hits 3.9 pct

This is the same record low that was recorded two months ago.

"We got enough upward revisions to offset the slight disappointment on the July number", said Simona Mocuta, senior economist with State Street Global Advisors.

The nation's unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent and the economy added 157,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department said Friday.

Another positive sign was the U-6, or underemployment rate, which fell to 7.5 percent, the lowest since 2001, from 7.8 percent.

Nonbank mortgage employment estimates lag national jobs data by a month.

The new figures show the labor market was not largely affected by the current trade war.

But paychecks grew only slightly - up 2.7 percent compared to the same time previous year.

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A quirk in the calendar may explain why average hourly wages inched up only 7 cents from June to July, explained Josh Wright, chief economist at software firm iCIMS: The Labor Department surveys employers at a different time than when companies pay their workers. (With revisions, it was 224,000, compared with 184,000 in the same period last year and 181,000 in 2016.) "It is fantastic that at this point in a recovery you are seeing growth that is on average faster than the previous two years", she said.

Gapen said he's optimistic that wage gains will pick up, ending the year at about a 3 percent increase. This is a noteworthy acceleration at this advanced stage of the labor market expansion, and, if sustained, will lead to further declines in the unemployment rate.

The marginal miss on employment numbers is accommodated by the numbers for May and June being revised higher, from 244,000 to 268,000 in May and from 213,000 to 248,000 in June.

Yet the trade fights didn't appear to impact hiring last month. More hours has helped lift average weekly earnings for retail workers in the past year more quickly than for workers overall. The economy expanded at a 4.1 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, the strongest showing in almost four years. The gauge includes part-time workers who'd prefer a full-time position and people who want a job but aren't actively looking.

But, as with small businesses, manufacturers are having trouble filling job openings, she said. Business and consumers are optimistic, suggesting solid hiring is likely to continue.

Martha Gimbel, director of economic research at Indeed.com, noted before Friday's report that in the first half of 2018, the average monthly increase in jobs had even exceeded those in the comparable periods of 2015 and 2016.

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