Job growth cooled in September, falling short of expectations

Though there were some concerns about the effects Hurricane Florence may have had on the U.S. job market, most projections pointed to monthly job growth in September around 194,000. The initial data suggests we fell short by a significant amount.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the economy added 134,000 jobs in September, while the unemployment rate dropped further to 3.7%. The 134,000 is the lowest of the year to date.

On a more encouraging note, the revisions for the two previous months – July and August – were quite good, with a combined net gain of 87,000 jobs as compared to previous BLS reports.

In terms of the larger context, this morning’s data points to 1.875 million jobs created so far in 2018, which is quite good, and which is an improvement on the totals from the first nine months of 2017 (1.53 million). It’s also roughly identical to the numbers from 2015 (1.84 million) and 2016 (1.85 million). That said, this year’s tally is still short of the totals from the first nine months of 2014 (2.19 million).

When the White House says this is the best growth “ever,” it apparently means “since 2014.”

As for the political implications, Donald Trump has now been in office for 20 full months – February 2017 through September 2018 – and in that time, the economy has created 3.8 million jobs. In the 20 full months preceding Trump’s presidency – June 2015 to January 2017 – the economy created 4.15 million jobs.

The White House has not yet offered an explanation for why job growth has slowed.

Above you’ll find the chart I run every month, showing monthly changes in total jobs since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction: red columns point to monthly changes under the Bush and Trump administrations, while blue columns point to monthly job changes under the Obama administration.

Update: Here’s another chart, this one showing monthly job losses/gains in just the private sector since the start of the Great Recession.