Economy Adds Disappointing 130K jobs in August; Unemployment Rate Holds at 3.7%

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights of the Employment Situation report for August

  • Number of payroll jobs INCREASED 130,000 in August;
  • The economy has added 1,266,000 jobs in the first eight months of 2019, DOWN 32.3 percent from 1,871,000 in the first eight months of 2018 and DOWN 14.5 percent from 1,481,000 in the first eight months of 2017;
  • Unemployment rate in August REMAINED at 3.7 percent (though taken out to one more decimal the unemployment rate DROPPED to 3.69 percent from 3.71 percent);
  • Unemployment rate for blacks FELL to 5.5 percent, the lowest rate since such statistics began in 1972;
  • Unemployment rate for Latinos FELL to 4.2 percent matching the record low in April and May this year (the government began collecting employment data on Latinos in 1973);
  • Private sector payrolls GREW 96,000, under 100,000 for the third time in the last two years;
  • Government payrolls INCREASED 34,000, the largest month-month increase in a year as the federal government added 28,000 (25,000 Census-related) jobs;
  • Average weekly earnings INCREASED $6.58 in August to $966.98, a 2.9 percent year-year gain; August marked the fifth straight month of year-year weekly income growth of under 3.0 percent;
  • Average hourly earnings GREW 11¢, in August to $28.11 a 3.2 percent annual increase. The average work week, which had fallen to 34.3 hours in July, moved back to 34.4 in August, multiplying the impact of the increase in hourly earnings;
  • About one of every five new jobs came in the two lowest paying sectors, retail and leisure and hospitality. In fact, the number of retail jobs dropped for the seventh straight month;
  • Prior month job totals were REVISED DOWN, a combined 20,000, cutting further into the August job growth; July’s originally reported increase of 164,000 jobs was reduced to 159,000 and the number of new jobs in June was lowered to 178,000 from the last report of 193,000.
  • The employment-population ratio – an unqualified measure of the “employment rate” – ROSE to 60.7 percent, its highest level since December 2008;
  • Construction sector ADDED 14,000 jobs, half of which came in non-residential building; the number of residential construction jobs GREW by 2,000;

Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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