(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

209K jobs added in July; jobless rate falls

The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in July, beating economists’ expectations by a wide margin and lowering the unemployment rate slightly to 4.3 percent.

Employment increased in food services and drinking places, professional and business services, and health care, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

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Both the unemployment rate, at 4.3 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 7 million, changed only slightly in July, the bureau said in its report. June’s jobless rates was 4.4 percent.

“The numbers do look good,” said Tom Maher, owner of the Manpower of Dayton staffing franchise based in Kettering. “We have seen little change in demand for employees in the manufacturing, logistics and customer service areas. The availability of qualified workers, on the other hand, remains significantly below the demand.

“The labor force participation rate is little changed, meaning that there are large numbers of individuals who are not seeking employment,” he added.

Ball State economist Michael Hicks, director of that university’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said July’s numbers offered some “encouraging” news.

“Top line growth of 205,000 jobs (was) well above the replacement rate,” Hicks said. “Also, labor force growth was very strong as perhaps 300,000 idle workers started to look for employment again. Both wages and overtime hours grew, with wage growth nearly double the inflation rate.

Added Hicks, “It is too early to say, but wage growth, labor force growth and strong growth in overtime may signal a period of more lasting wage growth.”

Among the unemployed, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 1.8 million in July and accounted for 25.9 percent of the unemployed, the bureau said.

The labor force participation rate, at 62.9 percent, also changed little in July.

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