Baltimore Sun

528K jobs added in July

Unemployme­nt ties 50-year low; month’s strong figures lessen fears of recession

- By Paul Wiseman

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added an astonishin­g 528,000 jobs last month despite flashing warning signs of an economic downturn, easing fears of a recession and handing President Joe Biden some good news heading into the midterm elections.

Unemployme­nt dropped another notch, from 3.6% to 3.5%, matching the more than 50-year low reached just before the pandemic took hold.

The economy has now recovered all 22 million jobs lost in March and April 2020 when COVID-19 slammed the U.S.

The red-hot numbers reported

Friday by the Labor Department are certain to intensify the debate over whether the U.S. is in a recession.

“Recession — what recession?” wrote Brian Coulton, chief economist at Fitch Ratings. “The U.S. economy is creating new jobs at an annual rate of 6 million — that’s three times faster than what we normally see historical­ly in a good year.”

Economists expected only 250,000 new jobs last month, in a drop-off from June’s revised 398,000. Instead, July was the best month since February.

The strong figures are welcome news for the Biden administra­tion and the Democrats at a time when many voters are worried about the economy.

Inflation is at its highest level in more than 40 years, and the economy has contracted for two quarters in a row, which is the common — but informal — definition of a recession and does not take into account other factors economists consider, such as the job picture.

At the White House, Biden credited the job growth to his policies, even as he acknowledg­ed the pain being inflicted by inflation. He emphasized the addition of 642,000 manufactur­ing jobs during his watch.

“Instead of workers begging employers for work, we’re seeing employers have to compete for American workers,” the president said.

Biden has boosted job growth through his $1.9 trillion coronaviru­s relief package and $1 trillion bipartisan infrastruc­ture law last year.

Republican lawmakers and some leading economists, however, say the administra­tion’s spending has contribute­d to high inflation.

The president has received other good economic news in recent weeks, as gasoline prices have steadily fallen after averaging slightly more than $5 a gallon in June.

On Wall Street, stocks

closed mostly lower Friday. While a strong job market is good, it’s also more likely the Federal Reserve will continue raising interest rates to cool the economy.

“The strength of the labor market in the face of ... rate-tightening from the Fed already this year clearly shows that the Fed has more work to do,” said Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist at Allianz Investment Management. “Overall,

today’s report should put the notion of a nearterm recession on the back burner for now.”

The Labor Department also reported that hourly earnings posted a healthy 0.5% gain last month and are up 5.2% over the past year.

Job growth was especially strong last month in the health care industry and at hotels and restaurant­s.

The number of Americans

saying they had jobs rose by 179,000, while the number saying they were unemployed fell by 242,000. But 61,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force in July, trimming the share of those working or looking for work to 62.1% from 62.2% in June.

Two years ago, the pandemic brought economic life to a near standstill as companies shut down and millions of

people stayed home or were thrown out of work. The U.S. plunged into a deep, two-month recession.

But massive government aid — and the Fed’s decision to slash interest rates and pour money into financial markets — fueled a surprising­ly quick recovery. Caught off guard by the strength of the rebound, factories, shops, ports and freight yards were overwhelme­d with orders and scrambled to bring back workers they furloughed when COVID-19 hit. The result has been shortages of employees and supplies, delayed shipments and high inflation.

In June, consumer prices were up 9.1% from a year earlier, the biggest increase since 1981.

The Fed has raised its benchmark short-term interest rate four times this year with more increases ahead.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh conceded businesses and consumers are worried about inflation but added: “Companies are still growing, and they’re looking for employees. And that’s a good sign.”

The Labor Department noted that 3.9 million people were working part time in July, up by 303,000 from June. Department economists said that reflected an increase in the number of people whose hours were cut because of slack business.

Simona Mocuta, chief economist at State Street Global Advisors, was among those stunned by the strong hiring numbers.

She said it’s possible hiring rose so sharply last month because job candidates, seeing signs of a slowdown, are now more willing to accept jobs they would have balked at earlier in the year.

Conditions may now be “shifting in employers’ favor,” she said.

 ?? JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY ?? A sign advertisin­g for people looking for work is seen Friday at a Home Depot store in San Rafael, Calif.
JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY A sign advertisin­g for people looking for work is seen Friday at a Home Depot store in San Rafael, Calif.

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