July jobs report: 163K jobs added, 8.3% jobless rate

The Bureau of Labor Statistics gave some mildly good news for the first time in four months.  The US economy added 163,000 jobs, slightly outpacing population growth, while the jobless rate ticked up slightly to 8.3%:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 163,000 in July, and the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 8.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment rose in professional and business services, food services and drinking places, and manufacturing. …

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Hispanics (10.3 percent) edged down in July, while the rates for adult men (7.7 percent), adult women (7.5 percent), teenagers (23.8 percent), whites (7.4 percent), and blacks (14.1 percent) showed little
or no change. The jobless rate for Asians was 6.2 percent in July (not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

In July, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was little changed at 5.2 million. These individuals accounted for 40.7 percent of the unemployed. (See table A-12.)

Both the civilian labor force participation rate, at 63.7 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 58.4 percent, changed little in July.

However, there is more bad news than good.  July saw a slight move up in U-6, which had been coming down earlier in the year to the mid-14 range.  That measure of un/underemployment has now risen to 15.2%, increasing in both adjusted and unadjusted measures.  It’s the highest rating in this measure since February, and it’s now up more than a full point since April.

The workforce lost 150,000 people last month, after adding 156,000 in June.  The civilian-participation rate dropped a tenth of a point to almost hit the 30-year low again it reached in April.  The measure of people not in the workforce jumped by 348,000, which may be why the jobless rate only went up a tenth of a point.

National Journal’s Jim Tankersley writes that this will give Barack Obama a boost on the campaign trail, but “the pace of growth still not strong enough to bring down the unemployment rate over time.”  Certainly the last part is objectively true, and I think he may be right about the boost for Obama, too — but anyone familiar with these numbers won’t buy it.  If this is what passes for good economic news for the Obama administration, it’s more of an indictment than a boost.  However, most people will hear “163,000” and think that sounds pretty good.

CNBC gives the report a pretty fair assessment, noting that the report also says that the number of working Americans actually dropped by 195,000:

The U.S. economy closed out an otherwise weak second quarter by creating more jobs than expected, with 163,000 new positions added, but the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent. …

“While the monthly gain is still relatively small by historical standards, it might help spark somewhat higher consumer optimism and spending,” Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at The Conference Board, said in response to the report.

The report showed that the actual amount of Americans working dropped by 195,000, with the net job gain resulting primarily from seasonal adjustments. The birth-death model, which approximates net job growth from newly added or closed businesses, added 52,000 to the total.

June’s jobs gain got revised downward by 16,000 to 64,000, while May was revised upward by 10,000 to 87,000.  Roughly speaking, it’s a wash.

Update: Reuters says this is good news … for people who want the Fed to start another round of quantitative easing:

Employers in July hired the most workers in five months, but an increase in the jobless rate to 8.3 percent will probably keep expectations of additional monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve intact.

Nonfarm payrolls rose 163,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, beating economists expectations for a 100,000 gain. The report was dimmed somewhat by the increase in the jobless rate from 8.2 percent in June, even as more people gave up the search for work.

That won’t happen before the election, I’m guessing.