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Economy in Brief

U.S. Payroll Increase Weakens Significantly
by Tom Moeller  September 2, 2016

Earlier strength in the job market subsided last month. Nonfarm payroll employment increased 151,000 (1.7% y/y) during August. That followed an upwardly revised 275,000 July rise, but June's gain was lessened to 271,000. A 180,000 increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. So far this year, payroll employment increases averaged 182,000 per month versus 229,000 averaged last year and 251,000 in 2014. Job market gains waned across sectors last month. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.9%, where it's been for three months. Expectations were for a dip to 4.8%. The total unemployment rate, including those marginally attached or working part time for economic reasons, held steady at 9.7%. Average hourly earnings ticked 0.1% higher (2.4% y/y); a 0.2% rise was expected.

From the payroll employment survey, the 151,000 job increase was the weakest in three months. It reflected declines throughout the goods-producing sector. Factory sector jobs declined 14,000 (-0.3% y/), the first decline in three months. Construction sector employment eased 6,000 (+3.1% y/y), the fourth decline in five months. Mining sector hiring eased 4,300 (-6.1% y/y), and has been falling since Q4'14.

Private service sector employment improved 150,000 (2.2% y/y). So far this year monthly gains averaged 170,000 versus 205,000 last year. Education & health services jobs grew 39,000 (2.8% y/y), the weakest rise since January. Trade, transportation & utility employment improved 34,000 (1.5% y/y), including a fairly steady 15,100 rise (1.9% y/y) in retail jobs. Leisure & hospitality jobs grew 29,000 (2.8% y/y), equaling the average so far this year. Professional & business services hiring improved 22,000 in August (2.7% y/y), down from 47,000 averaged in the prior six months. Temporary help employment declined 3,100 (+1.2% y/y), the first fall in three months. Jobs in financial activities improved 15,000 (2.0% y/y), also near this year's average. Information sector employment improved 4,000 (1.1% y/y), about as it has this year. Government sector jobs improved 25,000 (0.7% y/y). Local government jobs grew 24,000 (0.8% y/y), but state level jobs were unchanged (0.3% y/y). Federal government jobs edged 1,000 higher (1.3% y/y).

The length of the average workweek shortened to 34.3 hours, and has been falling since January's high of 34.6 hours. Hours-worked in mining & logging were significantly reduced at 42.8, versus 44.8 averaged during all of 2014. The factory sector workweek eased to 40.6 hours, and has been roughly stable since early last year. The construction sector workweek dropped sharply to 38.7 hours, as did hours in the private service-producing sector to 33.2. Hours in trade, transportation & utilities fell sharply to 34.2 versus last year's high of 34.7. Information sector hours of 35.9 compare to 36.8 at their 2014 peak. Hours in the financial sector have been fairly steady at 37.5. Hours-worked in leisure & hospitality fell sharply to 26.0 versus last year's peak of 26.4.

Average hourly earnings edged 0.1% higher. That left the y/y increase of 2.4% up from the 1.9% low during all of 2012. Earnings were little changed m/m throughout the goods-producing sector. In services, the 0.2% rise (2.5% y/y) was paced by a 0.5% increase (4.3% y/y) in the information sector. Leisure & hospitality earnings gained 0.2% (3.9% y/y). Financial sector earnings grew 0.2% (2.8% y/y) while education & health services pay ticked up 0.1% (1.5% y/y).

From the household employment survey, the stable 4.9% unemployment rate reflected a 97,000 rise (1.7% y/y) in employment and a 176,000 gain (1.5% y/y) in the labor force. The labor force participation rate held steady at 62.8%, up from last year's low of 62.4%. The participation rate amongst men aged 20 & over held steady at 71.7%, while for women aged 20 & over it remained at 58.3%. The average duration of unemployment fell to 27.6 weeks from 39.4 weeks averaged in both 2011 and 2012.

The teenage unemployment rate eased to 15.6%, down from its 2010 high of 27.2%. Unemployment amongst those aged 20-24 of 9.0% was below the 2010 high of 15.9%. For individuals aged 25 & over, unemployment averaged 4.0%, more than half its 2009 high.

By educational attainment, those with less than a high school diploma realized a sharply reduced jobless rate of 6.3%. High school graduates with no college realized 5.0% unemployment. Those with some college, but no degree were 4.3% unemployed while college graduates realized 2.5% unemployment.

The labor market data are contained in Haver's USECON database. Detailed figures are in the EMPL and LABOR databases. The expectations figure is in the AS1REPNA database.

Employment: (SA, M/M Change, 000s) Aug Jul Jun Aug Y/Y 2015 2014 2013
Payroll Employment 151 275 271 1.7 2.1% 1.9% 1.6%
 Previous -- 255 292 -- -- -- --
 Manufacturing -14 6 8 -0.3 1.1 1.4 0.8
 Construction -6 11 -6 3.1 4.8 5.0 3.7
 Private Service-Producing 150 214 243 2.2 2.5 2.1 2.1
 Government 25 50 33 0.7 0.5 0.0 -0.3
Average Weekly Hours - Private Sector 34.3 34.4 34.4 34.6 34.5 34.5 34.5
Private Sector Average Hourly Earnings (%) 0.1 0.3 0.1 2.4 2.3 2.1 2.1
Unemployment Rate (%) 4.9 4.9 4.9 5.1 5.3 6.2 7.4
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