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Jobs Grew By 528K in July

Payrolls finally back to pre-pandemic level; unemployment rate drops to 3.5 percent

A group of men working on a roof.

​Employers in the U.S. added 528,000 new jobs in July, surpassing economists' forecasts, according to the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.5 percent, close to what is considered full employment and a half-century low. Labor force participation, however, was lower in July, falling to 62.1 percent, down from 62.2 in June. Average hourly earnings grew 5.2 percent in July from a year earlier, a slight acceleration over the prior month.

Overall employment has finally returned to the pre-pandemic level last seen in February 2020. Gains were broad-based, with the biggest increases reported in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and health care.

“Despite ongoing recession threats still looming, we continue to see demand from employers across industries including professional and business services, and retail and hospitality,” said Amy Glaser, senior vice president at workforce solutions company Adecco. “While job growth was pretty widespread, retail and hospitality proved to be particularly strong in terms of job gains. However, employment in hospitality continues to lag behind pre-pandemic levels.”

Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, noted that upward revisions to employment in May and June combined for 28,000 more jobs in the second quarter than previously thought.  “Job gains remain well above their 2011-2019 pace, when 194,000 payrolls were added per month, on average,” she said.

Job creation in leisure and hospitality led July with 96,000 new jobs. Professional and business services reported 89,000 jobs added, and health care employers added 70,000 jobs, primarily in health care services, hospitals and nursing facilities. Jobs also grew in government (57,000), construction (32,000), manufacturing (30,000) and retail (21,600).

“Job gains were profound and pervasive,” Pollak said. “Despite the huge slowdown in the housing market and in mortgage applications, employment in the real estate industry was unchanged.”

“With employment gains seen in July, employee retention has now become a priority for many industries,” Glaser said. “What we’re seeing with hiring managers who are beginning to plan their budgets for 2023 is a more data-driven approach, being mindful of the fluctuating nature of the economy and observing trends in the jobs numbers so they don’t overstep in the hiring process, while at the same time ensuring their employees feel valued and are engaged.”

Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association, added that “With nearly two job openings for every unemployed person and labor force participation rates remaining at 40-year lows, our economy continues to grapple with how to address the shortage of qualified talent for in-demand jobs in this country.”

He said policymakers need to recognize the need for action to address the skills gap crisis. “The skills gap crisis is not going away until the public and private sectors come together and make the reskilling and upskilling of workers in this country a top priority,” he remarked.

Labor market benchmarks remain the strongest argument against a looming recession, although a separate government report released last week showed back-to-back quarterly declines in GDP, signaling that the economy meets the technical criteria for a recession. Plus, headwinds from the highest inflation in four decades and rising interest rates may be starting to have an effect. Jobless claims have been steadily edging higher this year, and some companies have announced hiring freezes or layoffs in recent weeks.


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