The jobs reports are starting to get a little predictable, by virtue of the fact that over the last several months, they’re effectively the same.
The new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added 169,000 jobs in August, which is roughly in line with expectations. After years of public-sector layoffs serving as a drag on the overall economy, we’re starting to see a slight turnaround – the private sector added 152,000 jobs last month, while the public sector added 17,000 jobs. That may seem like a fairly modest number, but it’s the most in recent memory.
The overall unemployment rate dropped to 7.3%, which is the lowest it’s been in nearly five years, but it’s not evidence of good news – it ticked down largely because of people leaving the workforce.
Indeed, while the 169,000 jobs added in August isn’t an awful preliminary report, on the whole, this morning’s figures are quite discouraging. The key is the revisions – June totals were revised down from 188,000 to 172,000, while July’s totals were revised down from 162,000 to 104,000. Combined, that’s a whopping 74,000 jobs we thought were created, but weren’t.
This should, in theory, send some key signals to policymakers in Washington. The Federal Reserve really shouldn’t be too eager to scale back its intervention, and Congress would ideally be looking for ways to give the job market a boost in order to strengthen a larger economic recovery. The latter appears highly unlikely – Republican lawmakers continue to back job-killing sequestration budget cuts and are now threatening another debt-ceiling crisis that would destroy the job market (again).
All told, so far in calendar year 2013, the economy has added 1.44 jobs overall, and 1.47 million in the private sector.
Above you’ll find the chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction – red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals 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.