U.S. unemployment falls to 3.9%, another 157,000 jobs added to nation’s labor pool

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 137 views 

The nation’s jobless rate edged back under 4% as employers across the U.S. continue to post “help wanted” signs to attract needed workers in the tight job marketplace, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday (Aug. 3).

In July, the unemployment rate fell to 3.9% as nonfarm payroll employment rose by 157,000, down from the 248,000 jobs added in June. Key sectors that saw the big gains in new hires were professional and business services, manufacturing and health care and social assistance, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

After touching a 20-year low of 3.8% in May, the nation’s unemployment rate rose to 4% in June and the number of unemployed persons declined by 284,000 to 6.3 million. A year earlier, the jobless rate was 4.3% and the number of unemployed persons held at nearly 7 million.

Two weeks ago, the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services reported that 1,400 people exited the Arkansas labor force in June as the state’s jobless rate remained at 3.8% for the fifth straight month, just below the U.S. unemployment rate.

Nationally, the ADP National Employment report released on Wednesday (Aug. 1) showed private sector employment increased by 219,000 jobs from June to July. ADP derives its data from payroll figures and measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

“The labor market is on a roll with no signs of a slowdown in sight,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “Nearly every industry posted strong gains and small business hiring picked up.”

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, also offered an upbeat assessment but with a few warnings.

“The job market is booming, impacted by the deficit-financed tax cuts and increases in government spending. Tariffs have yet to materially impact jobs, but the multinational companies shed jobs last month, signaling the threat,” said Zandi.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men and Whites (3.4%) declined in July. The jobless rates for adult women (3.7%), teenagers (13.1%), Blacks (6.6%), Asians (3.1%), and Hispanics (4.5%) showed little or no change over the month.

Among the unemployed, the number of reentrants to the labor force decreased by 287,000 in July to 1.8 million, following an increase in June. The number of long-term unemployed, or those jobless for 27 weeks or more, was essentially unchanged at 1.4 million in July and accounted for 22.7% percent of the unemployed.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was stable at 4.6 million, but down by 669,000 over the year. There were 1.5 million marginally attached workers in the U.S. labor force, little different from a year earlier. These individuals were not in the labor force, but wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the past year.

The labor force participation rate grew from 62.7% to 62.9% and the employment-population ratio was flat at 60.4%. Among the 157,000 job additions in July, employment in professional and business services was again the top advancer with 51,0000 in July and a robust 518,000 over the year.

Manufacturing added another 37,000 jobs for the month after adding 36,000 positions in June. Durable manufacturing accounted for nearly all the increase as industrial and blue-collar-heavy employers in the transportation equipment, machinery and electronics instruments sectors were hiring. Over the past 12 months, manufacturing has added 327,000 jobs.

In July, employment in health care and social assistance rose by 34,000, pushing up yearly employment in the sector by 286,000. Employment in food services and drinking places continued to trend up over the month with 26,000 and 203,000 job adds on a month and yearly basis, respective. The construction sector, which is struggling to find laborers, also continued to trend up in July with 19,000 addition workers and 308,000 over the year.

Employment in the volatile retail trade changed little at 7,000 new additions. Job gains in general merchandise, food and clothing stores were largely offset by losses in niche sporting goods, hobby, music and gaming retailers. Mining, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities and government sectors showed little or no change.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours in July, following an increase of 0.1 hour in June. In manufacturing, the workweek and overtime were unchanged in July, at 40.9 hours and 3.5 hours, respectively. The average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 7 cents to $27.05. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 71 cents, or 2.7%.

U.S. Labor Department officials revised total nonfarm payroll employment for May to 268,000, up from 244,000. June was also revised from 213,000 to 248,000. With these revisions, employment gains in May and June combined were 59,000 more than previously reported, BLS officials said.

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