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WORKSPAN
WORKSPAN DAILY |

U.S. Economy Adds 943,000 Jobs in July


The United States economy showed signs of a strong labor market in July, as 943,000 jobs were added and unemployment fell sharply, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report on Friday.

The report also upwardly revised June’s job figures to 938,000, up from 850,000. The July increase was the largest since August 2020. The unemployment rate fell to 5.4% from 5.9% in June and the number of Americans working or seeking work last month rose.  

A caveat, however, is the survey for the report was conducted in the middle of the month, which was before some local governments reimposed mask mandates and other restrictions. Additionally, many large employers have recently announced they would require employees to wear masks, be vaccinated or get regularly tested, as the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus continues to spread throughout the country.

“The jobs recovery is continuing, but it’s different in character to any we’ve seen before,” Nela Richardson, economist at human-resources software firm Automatic Data Processing Inc., told The Wall Street Journal.  “I had been looking at September as a point when we could gain momentum—with schools back in session and vaccines widely available. But with the Delta variant, we need to rethink that.”

Average hourly earnings increased more than expected, rising 0.4% for the month and are up 4% from the same period a year ago. The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted in the report that the data for recent months suggest that the rising demand for labor associated with the recovery from the pandemic might have influenced the increase in wages.

“It feels like a Goldilocks report. You have not too hot in terms of wages, but not too low in terms of job gains,” Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global Ratings, told CNBC.

Leisure and hospitality jobs, including restaurants, rose by 380,000 in July, reflecting Americans’ renewed interest in dining out and traveling this summer. Services businesses were hit hard earlier in the pandemic and would be among the first to face setbacks if Delta triggers restrictions that limit their operations. The hospitality industry still has 1.7 million fewer jobs than in February 2020, a large share of the 5.7 million jobs employers have yet to recover from the pandemic downturn.

Employment at public schools rose by 221,000, indicating many schools are offering larger summer programs to help students catch up after pandemic disruptions. Employment in the transportation and warehouse sector rose by 50,000 and employment in manufacturing increased by 27,000.

A record 9.2 million jobs were available at the end of May, according to the Labor Department. Friday’s report showed a net 261,000 workers entered the labor force, indicating better wages and ample opportunities are drawing some off the sidelines, but the gain isn’t enough to keep up with strong hiring, causing the unemployment rate to fall.

About half of states have ended participation in federal programs that allowed workers to collect an extra $300 in benefits a week and stay on unemployment rolls longer than the six months allowed in most states. Those benefits are set to expire in the remaining states in early September.

“It’s been a fairly significant shift in the past few weeks,” Jon Neff, chief operating officer at Hire Dynamics staffing firm, told the WSJ. “But I still think it’s going to take a minute to get people who have been out of the workforce for a while to come back in, and that could be a drag on hiring.”

About the Author

  Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.


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