US adds 173,000 jobs in August; unemployment rate drops to seven year low

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Monday, September 7, 2015

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the US economy added 173,000 jobs in July. Job growth has averaged 221,00 per month for the past three months.
Image: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The US economy added 173,000 jobs in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. The unemployment rate fell from 5.3 to 5.1 percent, the lowest since April 2008.

Although August job gains were lower than most economists forecast, job growth numbers for June and July were revised upwards by a combined 44,000. Average job gains over the past three months stand at 221,000, compared to March-May's 189,000 monthly average. Over the past twelve months, job growth has averaged 247,000 per month.

Average hourly earnings rose 0.3 percent, or 8 cents, marking the largest increase in earnings in seven months. Hourly earnings had risen by 6 cents in July. Wages have risen by 2.2 percent over the past year.

Job growth in August was primarily concentrated in the health care and social assistance, financial activities, and professional and business services sectors. Those three areas of the economy added a combined 108,000 jobs. Food service and drinking places employment increased by 26,000 over the month, and other economic sectors saw employment hold steady. Manufacturing, on the other hand, saw employment decline by 17,000 in August. A stronger dollar and worldwide economic weakness make US exports less desirable, leading to a flattening in manufacturing employment so far this year after steadily rising in the early years of the US economic recovery.

The solid overall job gains led analysts to slightly raise expectations for a decision by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month. Investors raised the likelihood of a September rate increase from 26 percent before the jobs report to 30 percent, and stocks dropped by over one percent on Friday. "The payrolls data is certainly good enough to allow for a Fed rate hike in September," said Deutsche Bank's head of currency strategy, Alan Ruskin. "The big question is still whether financial market volatility will scupper the plans."

"This is the first time the market has looked at a Fed meeting and really has no idea what the Fed is going to do," said Mark Kepner, a New Jersey equity trader with Themis Trading. "Right now you're looking at the overall uncertainty and that's what's hanging on the market. I don't think this number in and of itself changes how somebody's going to vote."


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