209,000 New Jobs In July As Unemployment Dips To 4.3 Percent

Aug 4, 2017
Originally published on August 4, 2017 10:11 am
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There are new jobs numbers out today. U.S. job growth beat expectations in July. That's according to the government's monthly employment report. The unemployment rate also returned to a 16-year low. NPR's John Ydstie joins us to talk about all of this. Hey, John.


MARTIN: A better-than-expected report - what's it tell us about the economy?

YDSTIE: Well, I think it tells us the economy continues to grow at a solid, if not spectacular, pace. And it may be strengthening a bit. The economy added 209,000 jobs in July. That's about 25,000 more than the average for this year. A lot of people have thought job growth would tail off as this economic recovery, which is now eight years old, gets more mature. And we get low unemployment, which makes the labor market tighter.

MARTIN: So the unemployment rate - we say it's returning to a 16-year low because we also touched that mark back in May.

YDSTIE: Right.

MARTIN: Now we're back there again. We're at a 4.3 unemployment rate. How significant is it?

YDSTIE: You know, it's an important milestone. It would seem to suggest that the country is running out of workers, which could end up being a barrier to faster growth. But it's not clear the unemployment rate is capturing all the people in the economy who might work if offered the right job at good wages. There are still a lot of people in prime working age group between 25 and 54 years of age who are on the sidelines, not actively looking for work. So they're not counted as unemployed. But as wages have inched up, more of them are being enticed to come back into the workforce and take jobs. There's some evidence of that happening in this report because it shows the U.S. workforce grew by almost 350,000 in July.

MARTIN: So you mentioned wages are inching up. Is that right? Because they've been so stagnant for so long.

YDSTIE: Yes. Hourly wages in this report rose three-tenths of a percent - doesn't sound like much. But it's better than in recent months. And if that number were repeated for a year, we'd be up where we should be at this point in a recovery. So we'll have to see. Of course, everyone doesn't get the average wage increase. There's a great deal of variation in wages. If you're in Boston, Seattle or San Francisco, you're probably getting more than that average wage increase. If you're in Houston or Atlanta, you could be getting less. And, of course, it depends on what kind of work you do. If you're in health care tech, you're probably seeing big wage gains. If you're a retail buyer, not so much.

MARTIN: And just briefly, any particular industry doing exceptionally well here?

YDSTIE: Leisure, hospitality, health care. No industry had significant losses last month.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's John Ydstie, thank you so much.

YDSTIE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.