The latest Labor Department report reveals that U.S. employers added 209,000 jobs to payrolls in July. That lowered the national unemployment rate to 4.3%, matching a 16-year low. This is a bit of good news for the Trump administration amidst last week’s war on White House leaks, Special Counsel Robert Mueller impaneling a grand jury, and the latest North Korean ballistic missile testing.
Indeed, there is good reason for optimism when it comes to jobs and the economy. The report shows the growth in jobs in July to be more than economists had expected. Since President Trump took office in January, a total of 1.07 million jobs have been added to the job market. While most agree Trump isn’t entirely responsible for the improved labor figures, it cannot be denied that the President is making good on his signature campaign promise to bring jobs back to America.
The job increases in July were across the board, impacting all sectors of the American workforce. The industries that demonstrated the largest gains were restaurants and bars with 53,000 new employees, health care with 39,000 additions, and manufacturing with 16,000 new workers. An uptick was also seen in the business services and mining sectors. These gains are not only a boost to the economy, but to unemployed Americans who over the past few years have given up even looking for a job.
The employment-to-population ratio also increased to 60.2 percent, tying the highest level since February 2009. The share of adults between 25 and 54 years old working, or looking for work rose in July to the highest level since December 2010. While this is still below the pre-recession rate, it appears the improved job market could be attracting discouraged or able-bodied workers from the sidelines.
The average hourly wage for private-sector workers grew 2.5% in July. Nothing to boast about compared to the historical pace, however it does look better when taking into account that inflation continues to be so low. Real wages continue to increase steadily, with average hourly wages growing nine cents per hour.
What does this all mean to the average American seeking employment? Well, to answer that we need to look at the overall economic picture. In addition to strong job growth, low inflation and a falling unemployment rate, other indicators must be assessed. In this regard stable or rising home prices and a record setting stock market, driven by robust corporate earnings quarter seem to be boosting consumer confidence. The combination of these factors should allow Americans to feel cautiously optimistic about the state of our overall economy.
One doesn’t have to look beyond the Reagan era to see how beneficial a growing economy can be to initiatives such as tax reform, healthcare reform and infrastructure among others. However, the one missing piece, which is critical, is a functional Congress willing to cross party lines to support at least tax reform, if not other initiatives which will stimulate economic growth. Combined with an already improving economy, this would certainly make for, as President John F. Kennedy once said, “a rising tide that lifts all boats.”