The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ July jobs report contained little bad news. The bureau found that employers created a net 255,000 new jobs since June.
Strong growth in the professional and business services (+70,000), health care (+49,000), leisure and hospitality (+45,000), and government (+30,000) sectors lead the way. (One exception was the mining sector, which shed another 7,000 jobs—primarily because lower energy prices have reduced investment in domestic energy production.)
The household survey showed some good news. The unemployment rate remained constant at 4.9 percent. Although hundreds of thousands of Americans entered the labor force, most found jobs. As a result, both the labor force participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio increased by 0.1 percentage points.
Hours and earnings both increased in July too. The average workweek increased 0.1 hours to 34.5 hours. Average hourly earnings increased 8 cents to $25.69/hour. Over the past year inflation has increased a bit less than 1 percentage point, while average hourly earnings have risen 2.6 percent. Consequently, the average worker has experienced real wage gains.
The report did sound one sour note: long-term unemployment worsened. The average duration of unemployment rose slightly to 28.1 weeks, just over six and a half months.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data also show that roughly one-quarter of unemployed workers have been jobless for six months or longer. While three-quarters of the unemployed have been jobless for less than six months, the remaining fourth have been looking for work so long that they increase the overall average to above six months. Seriously prolonged joblessness remains a challenge for many workers.
This may explain why polls find Americans more pessimistic about the economy than the headline statistics suggest they would be. One in four workers who lose their jobs take a very long time to find new work.
Nonetheless, the jobs report provides encouraging news. It shows the weak May report was an aberration and the economy continues to strengthen. It also suggests the Brexit vote has had little negative effect on the U.S.