July labor report: 157000 new jobs; unemployment dips below 4%

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Non-farm payrolls advanced 157,000 after an upwardly revised 248,000 increase, Labor Department figures showed Friday.

Thirty-seven percent of responding small business owners said they had job openings they could not fill, the highest number since the Monthly Jobs Report began, the NFIB said August 2.

Like weather forecasters predicting sunny skies in Southern California, economists have watched the labor market produce consistent monthly increases in hiring recently.

In its trade report, the Commerce Department said the United States deficit in goods and services rose 7.3% to $46.3 billion in June from $43.2 billion in May.

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Hiring sizzled in July in business services, manufacturing and hospitality. Consumer prices rose 2.9 percent in June from a year earlier, more than the average wage gain.

One thing that hasn't impressed much is wage growth.

But a big drag came from sporting goods, hobby, book, and music retailers, which lost 31,800 jobs on net.

Average hourly earnings increased seven cents, or 0.3%, in July after gaining 0.1% in June.

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The US labour force participation rate (the share of the population 16 years and older either working or seeking work), which peaked at 67.1 percent in 2000, remained unchanged from the previous month at 62.9 percent. The only time in the recorded history the rate was lower was in the 1960s. "For the second consecutive month, the unemployment rate for Hispanics reached a record low", the statement added.

The gain in payrolls was concentrated at private employers, which added 170,000 jobs, while the public sector cut 13,000 positions. The pickup has impressed many economists because it's coming late in the economic expansion, which has entered its 10th year and is now the second-longest in US history. Below that was outpatient care centers, adding 4,300 jobs. In the service sector, hiring of 118,000 was the lowest since December, partly reflecting the cuts at Toys "R" Us. Mining employment registered its first decline in 10 months in July (-4,000) but is likely to bounce back with higher energy prices propelling activity in the sector.

The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.9 percent from 4 percent.

Friday's report confirms that trajectory, which would bring the benchmark rate to 2.25 to 2.5 percent by the end of the year. That is the fewest in 11 years and means part-time workers are getting more hours.

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For July 2018, the unemployment rate for Americans who dropped out of college or who have associate degrees remained steady at 3.2 percent.

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