After a few relatively good jobs reports in the late spring and early summer, there was growing optimism that the job market had found its footing. It makes today's underwhelming report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that much more disappointing.
The U.S. economy added 162,000 jobs in July, below expectations. In a rare sight, public-sector layoffs were not a drag on the overall totals -- the private sector added 161,000 jobs, while the public sector added 1,000 jobs. (In recent years, the public sector ordinarily sheds several thousand jobs per month). The overall unemployment rate dropped to 7.4%, but largely because of people leaving the workforce.
Even more discouraging were the revisions from the previous two months -- May's totals were revised down from 195,000 to 176,000, while June's totals were revised down from 195,000 to 188,000. Combined, that's 26,000 jobs we thought were created, but weren't.
Looking at the report in the larger context, what we see over the last year or so is a job market that's effectively just staying the same -- it's not getting better, but it's not getting worse. We're steadily adding jobs every month at rates above population growth, but we're seeing neither a hiring boom nor a deteriorating employment landscape. It's just ... leveled off.
If our political process were sane, lawmakers would be looking for ways to give the job market a boost in order to strengthen a larger economic recovery. Alas, that's not going to happen -- Republican leaders remain committed to sequestration cuts that are holding back job creation on purpose, and are focused primarily on spending bills that punish those already struggling.
All told, so far in calendar year 2013, the economy has added 1.34 jobs overall, and 1.37 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.