Jobs Report: Not Good, but Not Terrible Either

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from The New York Times,

First, the good news, if it can be called that: The new numbers on how the United States job market fared in August aren’t cover-your-eyes terrible. Nothing in this report should send anyone running to the hills in fear.

It shouldn’t even prompt any major rethinking of where things stand, or change the basic economic narrative of the last few months that the economy is mending more strongly than it has previously in this five years of disappointing recovery. Enough other evidence points in that direction that one month of shaky jobs numbers, which will be revised significantly from here, shouldn’t cause anyone to do any radical reassessments.

This report is like a sitcom showed on the in-flight screen on a flight to Chicago: It is certainly not good, but it is far from offensive. It just is.

How can we capture the sheer scope of the mediocrity? Start with the most widely tracked number, the number of jobs that the nation’s employers added to their payrolls in August. It was indeed a disappointment, coming in at only 142,000, well below the 230,000 economists had forecast and the revised 212,000 of July.

August was the weakest month of job gains yet this year, but if you look back just a little further, you get more context.

Turns out, down months like this occur pretty regularly even when the basic trend of job creation is solid, most recently in December, when only 84,000 jobs were added.

This may be statistical noise and may be just the usual ups and downs of employers’ behavior, but either way, it suggests things remain on track. Take a look, for example, at the six-month average job gains, and while it ticked down in August, it remains higher than at any time in 2013.

The good news in the report, if it can be called that, is that the unemployment rate fell a tick to 6.1 percent, from 6.2 percent. Unfortunately, the details of why it fell also point to a murky picture, with not much to celebrate.

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