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US job growth soared in June, exceeding expectations

Last month, Kevin McCarthy looked at the job numbers and said President Biden's economic policies "have stalled our recovery." Yeah, about that...
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A help wanted sign is displayed at car wash in Indianapolis on Sept. 2, 2020.Michael Conroy / AP

Expectations headed into this morning showed projections of about 700,000 new jobs added in the United States in May. As it turns out, according to the new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the preliminary tally suggests the economy far exceeded expectations.

Job growth leaped higher in June as businesses looked to keep up with a rapidly recovering U.S. economy, the Labor Department reported Friday. Nonfarm payrolls increased 850,000 for the month, compared to the Dow Jones estimate of 706,000.

The revisions from the last couple of months were also modestly encouraging: April's job totals were revised down a little, while May's tally was revised up a little. Combined, the changes reflected additional 15,000 previously unreported new jobs -- on top of the preliminary total from June.

As is always the case, context is everything. The previous reports on April's and May's job totals fell short of expectations, raising widespread questions about the strength of the economic recovery. With those figures in mind, this morning's report offers real relief: job growth in June was the strongest in nearly a year, and it was more than triple the numbers we saw in April.

For Republicans, the data does little to help their talking points. A month ago, for example, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) insisted that President Biden's economic policies "have stalled our recovery," adding, "Bidenomics is bad for America." A month earlier, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) argued that the White House's economy agenda was sending the economy into a "tailspin."

I'll look forward to their revised statements later today.

That said, it's worth emphasizing that under normal circumstances, 850,000 new jobs over the course of a single month would be cause for hearty celebration. But the current circumstances are anything but normal, and the economy will need to pick up steam to help get the United States out of the hole we fell into in 2020.

As things stand, we're still more than 6 million jobs short of where we were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the current pace, it will still take a while to get back to February 2020 levels.

All of which is to say, anyone looking at today's jobs report and thinking Congress need not bother with an ambitious infrastructure package, because the economy is fine, is mistaken.

Ordinarily, I run a chart at the bottom of posts about the monthly jobs reports, but the job losses at the start of the pandemic were so severe, it's rendered the image largely meaningless. I'm retooling it in the hopes of making it useful again.