U.S. employers kept adding workers at a healthy pace in July and wage gains picked up, underlining a solid labor market ahead of this week's Federal Reserve interest-rate cut and President Donald Trump's threat to ratchet up tariffs on Chinese goods.
Payrolls rose 164,000, almost matching projections, though the two prior months were revised lower, according to a Labor Department report Friday. The jobless rate held at 3.7%, near a half-century low, while average hourly earnings climbed 3.2% from a year earlier, better than forecast.
Despite July's healthy payrolls figure, the three-month average increase of 140,000 was the slowest in almost two years. That trend is in line with forecasts for a gradual slowing of job gains as the labor market tightens, but it could also be seen as a sign that the economy is losing steam.
Investors boosted bets on additional reductions after Trump's latest trade salvo on Thursday. The Federal Reserve had signaled a day earlier that its quarter-point interest-rate cut would likely start only a short round of monetary easing, though Chairman Jerome Powell indicated that the central bank was watching trade developments closely.
Revisions subtracted 41,000 jobs from the prior two months. The June figure was lowered from 224,000 to a less-eye-popping 193,000.
The job gains were led by service providers, particularly in education and health services, as well as professional and business services. Retail payrolls fell for a six month, while manufacturing added the most in six months. Construction gains were relatively weak, at 4,000.
Average hourly earnings rose 0.3% from the prior month, above estimates, following an upwardly revised 0.3% gain. That indicates wages are gaining momentum as employers encounter greater difficulty finding workers, and also bodes well for resilient consumer spending in the face of tariffs.
The participation rate, or share of working-age people in the labor force, increased to 63% as the count of both employed and unemployed Americans increased in the household survey.
At the same time, the average workweek got shorter, boosting average hourly pay. The average for all private employees decreased to 34.3 hours, from 34.4 hours, as manufacturing hours touched their lowest point since November 2011.
Source : Bloomberg