US Job Growth Strong, Unemployment Rate Rises to 4 Percent

July 6, 2018 Updated: July 6, 2018    

WASHINGTON—U.S. job growth increased more than expected in June as manufacturers stepped up hiring, but steady wage gains pointed to moderate inflation pressures that should keep the Federal Reserve on a path of gradual interest rate increases.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 213,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. Data for April and May was revised to show 37,000 more jobs created than previously reported. The economy needs to create roughly 120,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population.

The unemployment rate rose to 4.0 percent from an 18-year low of 3.8 percent in June as more people entered the labor force in a sign of confidence in the jobs market. That was the first increase in the jobless rate in 10 months.

The labor force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, rose to 62.9 percent last month from 62.7 percent in May. It had declined for three straight months.

Average hourly earnings gained five cents, or 0.2 percent in June after increasing 0.3 percent in May. That kept the annual increase in average hourly earnings at 2.7 percent.

The moderate wage growth should allay fears of a strong build-up in inflation pressures. The Fed’s preferred inflation measure hit the central bank’s 2 percent target in May for the first time in six years. It is expected to hover around its target for a while, in part because of labor market tightness.

Minutes of the Fed’s June 12-13 policy meeting published on Thursday offered an upbeat assessment of the labor market. The U.S. central bank increased interest rates last month for the second time this year and has projected two more rate hikes by year end.

The dollar extended losses against the euro and the yen after the employment report. Prices for U.S. Treasuries rose. U.S. stock index futures were little changed.

With a record 6.7 million unfilled jobs in April, economists are optimistic that wage growth will accelerate later this year.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast nonfarm payrolls increasing by 195,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate steady at 3.8 percent.

Robust Economic Growth

A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, rose to 7.8 percent last month from a 17-year low of 7.6 percent in May.

The employment report together with data from the Commerce Department showing the trade deficit narrowed 6.6 percent to a 1-1/2-year low of $43.1 billion in May reinforced expectations of robust economic growth in the second quarter.

Gross domestic product estimates for the April-June period are above a 4 percent annualized rate, double the 2.0 percent pace logged in the first quarter.

By Lucia Mutikani

 

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