The Labor Department reported this morning that U.S. employers added 164,000 jobs in July, showing healthy economic gains for the month that were in line with estimates.
The biggest gains in employment came in the professional and technical services industries, which added 31,000 jobs, primarily related to computer systems design, as well as health care, social services and financial activities. The manufacturing sector changed little during the month, with just 16,000 new hires, while the retail industry continued to trim its payrolls.
The retail industry cut 3,600 jobs in July, with the steepest declines coming from department stores, electronics and appliance stores, and miscellaneous retailers. Additionally, clothing and accessories stores trimmed 600 jobs and sporting goods, and other specialty retailers cut 1,100 positions. The retail sectors with the biggest gains during the month were groceries, health stores and building supply stores.
One big piece of good news for workers was the continued improvement in wages. After seeing an 8-cent increase in June, average hourly earnings rose another 8 cents in July, to $27.98. Over the past 12 months, the hourly rate has climbed a total of 3.2 percent, partly due to the fact that employers have been forced to become more competitive in order to attract skilled workers.
Despite an overall hiring increase, the country’s jobless rate remained unchanged, holding at 3.7%.
Economists have been predicting that global growth would begin to slow this year, and the relatively static nature of U.S. employment in the past three months appears to support those claims.
It was just such fears of an economic slowdown that prompted the U.S. Federal Reserve to cut interest rates earlier this week, for the first time since the recession in 2008, trimming them to a range of 2% to 2.25%. Fed chairman Jerome Powell stated at a press conference on July 31 that while the U.S. economy remains strong, the organization had concerns about macro factors around the world. He said the cut was “intended to ensure against downside risks from weak global growth and trade tensions.”
The following day, President Donald Trump added fuel to those already heated trade tensions, when he announced a 10% tariff on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods. This fourth tranche of tariffs is set to hit footwear, apparel and other accessories markets on Sept. 1. Chinese officials has since said that they would respond with China’s own countermeasures.