WASHINGTON: US job creation slowed in August, adding 151,000 new positions for the month, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.
While the economy continued to create jobs, the total represented a precipitous drop from July’s revised total of 275,000 and was also well below analyst expectations.
The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.9 percent for the third month in a row, with the number of long-term unemployed unchanged at 2 million people.
Policymakers at the US Federal Reserve have pointed to steady job gains in recent months in signaling that they are likely to raise interest rates this year to ward of inflation in the medium-term.
It was not immediately clear how August’s results would influence their thinking but analysts at Barclays said the Fed’s positions should be comforted.
“Most members will view this report as consistent with solid economic activity and will believe that activity will continue to pull inflation upward toward their target,” Rob Martin and Michael Gapen said in a research note.
The mining sector continued to shed jobs since reaching a peak in 2014, losing 4,000 more positions in the month. Employment levels in industries such as construction, manufacturing, retail and transportation were flat.
However, other sectors continued to trend higher, with gains in health care, which added 14,000 more jobs, food and services, which added 34,000 positions, and the financial sector, which rose by 15,000, the Labor Department said.
Over the past 12 months, monthly jobs gains have averaged 204,000, according to the department.
Average hourly earnings rose a meager 3 cents to $25.73, putting them up 2.4 percent for the year.
Reacting to the news, the University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers said the figures showed the US economy continued on a healthy upward path but that there were scant signs of inflationary pressures.
“It’s just relentless,” he wrote on Twitter. “Month after month after month, the economy is creating jobs, pushing unemployment down. A long, steady, slow expansion.”
“It’s now a sure thing that the economy will be moving forward — looking healthy and showing at least some momentum — come Election Day,” he said.
July’s strong report had produced near euphoria on its release, instantly seen as a boon to the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, with her rival Donald Trump at pains to emphasize negative aspects.
The Trump campaign swiftly seized on August’s lower numbers on Friday to blast his rival, formerly secretary of state in the adminisitration of President Barack Obama.
“The August jobs report shows the stagnant Clinton-Obama economy fails to deliver the jobs Americans desperately need.”
“Over a third are low-paying service jobs in sectors such as retail and restaurants that won’t support a family, pay for a home or put children through college,” the campaign said in a statement.