Economy Adds 162,000 Jobs In July

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ July employment report mixes middling news under very promising top lines.

The U.S. economy added 162,000 jobs last month, according to an initial survey issued Friday morning, keeping pace with analyst expectations that the labor market is recovering at a steady pace.

Better still, the unemployment rate dropped 7.6 percent to 7.4 percent — the lowest its been since before the Great Recession. But that’s due in part to the fact that people left the job market, driving down the labor force participation rate.

And it gets worse from there.The most important information in any monthly employment report — because it’s the most reliable — is revisions to previous months’ payroll figures. Last month, we saw upward revisions to both April and May hiring statistics. This month, the news is not so good.

The May figure dipped from 195,000 to 176,000, and the June figure slightly less so, from 195,000 to 188,000.

The payroll gains were attributable to large increases in retail and wholesale trade employment, and service and financial service sector jobs.

The best news in the report may be for teachers, who lost tens of thousands of jobs over the course of the economic downturn. Today’s report indicates that local governments hired over 10,000 people in the education sector, offsetting 4,000 other local government job losses. Together, local government gains offset modest losses at the state (-3,000) and federal (-1,000) levels.

Perhaps the worst news, though, is that hourly earnings fell — slightly. Down 0.1 percent.

The report weakens the case that the Federal Reserve should begin tapering the support its been providing to the economy for several months — but the top line drop in unemployment rate significantly masks that fact.