At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time on Friday, the Labor Department will release its hiring and unemployment figures for July, providing a fresh snapshot of the American economy. This is what to watch for.
The Labor Department report follows a steady stream of hiring gains and a robust reading on economic growth. Last week, the Commerce Department reported that gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 4.1 percent in the second quarter, the fastest pace in nearly four years.
Like weather forecasters predicting sunny skies in Southern California, economists have watched the labor market produce consistent monthly increases in hiring recently. “I’ve never seen such a steady stream of gains — there’s no volatility in the numbers,” said Ellen Zentner, chief United States economist at Morgan Stanley.
Experts estimated that the economy added 190,000 jobs in July, down slightly from the 213,000 increase in June but still a very healthy figure for this stage of the recovery.
Martha Gimbel, director of economic research at Indeed.com, noted that in the first half of 2018, the average monthly increase in jobs was 215,000, compared with 184,000 in the same period last year and 181,000 in 2016.
“It is amazing that at this point in a recovery you are seeing growth that is on average faster than the previous two years,” she said.
Made in U.S.A.
The manufacturing sector has been booming, even as storm clouds like tariffs on steel and aluminum and President Trump’s threats of a broader trade war loom.
Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco, is looking for a gain of 27,000 factory jobs for July. “We’re not seeing any impact from trade tensions, as it’s too early,” he said.
Makers of machinery, fabricated metals and electrical equipment have been among the most aggressive in hiring.
Steel Ceilings in Johnstown, Ohio, hired two hourly workers last month and will hire another two this month if it can find appropriate candidates, said Rick Sandor, the company’s president. That’s not easy these days — shifts run from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m., and temporary workers start at $14 per hour. So as the labor market has tightened, Mr. Sandor has eased up on the requirements for new hires.
In the past, he insisted on a couple of years’ experience in metal fabrication, but now settles for candidates who show mechanical skills, like carpentry or heating and cooling repair. Mr. Sandor is willing to waive the requirement for a high school diploma as well and has even hired applicants with what he terms “minor” prison sentences.
“If a person was truly trying to get their life back together, we thought it would be helpful to offer them a job,” Mr. Sandor said.
If manufacturing is white hot, then retailing is ice cold. Under pressure from online competitors that has forced many department stores to close, retailers shed 21,600 jobs in June. Total employment in the sector has grown by just half a percent over the last 12 months, compared with a 1.6 percent gain for payrolls in the overall economy. A steep drop for a second month would underscore the troubles.
On the other hand, as Cathy Barrera, chief economist of ZipRecruiter, pointed out, businesses that benefit from e-commerce, like warehousing, are thriving. Over the last 12 months, the transportation and warehousing sector added more than 160,000 jobs, a 3 percent gain.