U.S. Jobs Report: 288,000 Positions Added

7/4/14
 
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from The Wall Street Journal,
7/3/14:

Unemployment Falls to 6.1% as Prior Months’ Gains Revised Upward.

U.S. employers added jobs at a robust clip in June, a sign of improving labor-market strength as the economic recovery heads into its sixth year.

Nonfarm employment advanced a seasonally adjusted 288,000 last month, the Labor Department said Thursday. May’s gain was revised up to 224,000 from 217,000, while April’s improvement was upgraded to 304,000 from 282,000. That was the strongest gain since January 2012.

The unemployment rate, obtained from a separate survey of households, fell to 6.1% in June, the lowest level since September 2008. The improvement reflected more people finding jobs while the size of the workforce remained relatively steady.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had projected payrolls to rise by 215,000 and the jobless rate to remain unchanged at 6.3%.

June marked the first five-month stretch of job creation in excess of 200,000 since the boom years of the late 1990s. The data send a welcome signal of economic health after output contracted in the first quarter at its fastest pace since the recession, an annualized 2.9% decline.

Economists attributed the depth of the first-quarter decline in output to a series of one-off factors like unusually cold weather and a drawdown of business inventories from unsustainably high levels at the end of 2013.

Some more recent economic reports have been lackluster, but the data has generally pointed to a rebound in activity. Macroeconomic Advisers forecasts gross domestic product expanded at a 3.3% annual rate in the second quarter.

To be sure, the labor market remains sluggish. The jobless rate is still historically high, above the roughly 4% to 5% rate in the months before the 18-month recession began in December 2007. Many policy makers and analysts say it understates problems still encountered by job seekers.

At 62.8%, the share of population either working or looking for work remains around 30-year lows, a sign that many of the unemployed have given up their job searches.

Furthermore, job gains continue to be led by low-paying sectors. Retail added over 40,000 new jobs while leisure and hospitality added 39,000.

Higher-paying sectors continued to lag behind in the jobs recovery. Manufacturing added 16,000 new jobs and construction added 6,000.

This composition of job gains was been reflected in muted wage gains last month. The average hourly wage for private-sector workers rose six cents to $24.45. That’s up just 2% from a year earlier, basically in line with consumer-price inflation.

A broader gauge of unemployment, which includes discouraged job seekers and people working part time because they can’t find full-time work, stood at 12.1% last month. That was down slightly from 12.2% in May and down from 14.2% a year earlier.

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