Hiring slowed modestly in July as construction and warehouse companies didn’t add many workers, but employers still say this is a “golden age” to get a job or ask for better pay and benefits.
The U.S. economy added 164,000 jobs in July, squarely in line with economists’ forecasts and marking 106 straight months of gains. The unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent, near a half-century low, according to the Labor Department report released Friday. Although hiring has cooled from last year, companies continue to bring on new employees at a healthy pace.
“An average of 140,000 jobs over the last few months isn’t terrible, but is a definite slowdown from the numbers we saw last year,” tweeted Martha Gimbel, research director at Indeed’s Hiring Lab.
Nearly all of the job gains last month came from the service sector, not blue-collar jobs, a notable change from 2018 that could be a sign President Trump’s trade war is starting to bite certain industries.
Trump announced on Twitter this week that all Chinese imports will have a tariff on them by September, a sharp escalation of trade tensions that many retailers fear will cause the prices of popular items like smartphones, shoes and baby products to rise, discouraging consumer spending. But so far, the economy has remained resilient.
Health care and business are seeing large gains this year while manufacturing employment has been weak as the industry grapples with tariffs and slowing purchases from abroad. In July, construction and warehousing had anemic hiring, and employment in primary metals, which includes steel and aluminum, declined.
“We want to see a surge in reshoring and new manufacturing jobs, but the [Trump] administration’s policies have fallen short of getting us there,” said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
The United States continues to have more job openings than unemployed, and employers are looking for ways to stand out to attract workers, including by raising pay and benefits.
The average hourly wage increased 3.2 percent in the past year, the Labor Department reported. That is well above the rate of inflation but below the level of wage growth that was seen at the end of the 1990s boom.
“Wage growth should be higher if the labor market were truly at full employment,” said Edward Al-Hussainy, a senior analyst at investment firm Columbia Threadneedle.
Economists have been surprised that wage growth has not picked up this year given how low unemployment is.
“If you don’t like your job, this is a golden age to find a new one,” said Ian Siegel, chief executive of ZipRecruiter, an online jobs board.
Wage gains have been strongest in the past year for workers earning $12 to $14 an hour and those at the top end of the pay scale who make more than $60 an hour, according to a new analysis from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.
Many of the new jobs in July went to African American men and African American teenagers, an encouraging sign that the economy is starting to benefit a wider group of people. Still, the black unemployment rate remains almost double that of whites.
Siegel said job seekers have a lot more power than they might realize to ask for higher pay and more perks. On ZipRecruiter, job postings offering flexible work schedules have more than doubled in the past year. Employers also are touting the training they offer as a perk for people who want more career growth.
“One of the things we’ve seen is a big rise in on-the-job training being mentioned in job postings,” Siegel said.
Economists were encouraged to see the number of Americans stuck in part-time jobs who want to work full time fell below 4 million for the first time since before the Great Recession, another sign people are taking advantage of chances to move to better jobs. Labor force participation also picked up among adults without a high school degree.
The president’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, cheered the job news as evidence the economy continues to grow and working class Americans are feeling it.
“It was a very good jobs report. People are flooding back into the job market,” Kudlow said. “We look forward to a very strong second half going into 2020. I don’t think the tariffs have had an impact.”
But there is growing concern among economists that Trump’s ongoing effort to put tariffs on other nations could damp hiring in the second half of the year.
“The latest salvo from President Trump will accelerate the slowdown in job gains and the Federal Reserve will shave the interest rate again in September,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Loyola Marymount University and SS Economics.