(CN) — Employers added just 157,000 jobs in July, fewer than analysts had expected and significantly slower than the rate of job gains during the first half of the year, the Labor Department said Friday.
In other economic news, the U.S. trade deficit widened in June for the first time in four months as exports fell and imports grew.
In addition, trade gaps with China, Mexico and Canada all increased during the month.
On the labor front, there was some good news as the unemployment rate dropped down to 3.9 percent from 4 percent.
That’s near an 18-year low of 3.8 percent reached in May.
But hiring definitely slowed in July, coming in significantly lower than the average 224,000 new workers who had been added to payrolls in the first six months of this year.
In regard to trade, the Commerce Department said Friday that the deficit in goods and services — the gap between what the US sells and what it buys from other countries — rose 7.3 percent to $46.3 billion in June from $43.2 billion in May.
Exports declined 0.7 percent to $213.8 billion; while imports rose 0.6 percent to $260.2 billion, led by increases in pharmaceuticals and crude oil.
The United States ran goods deficits in June of $33.5 billion with China, up 0.9 percent from May; $7.4 billion with Mexico, up 10.5 percent; and $2 billion with Canada, up 39.7 percent.
In the first half of the year, the United States has registered a trade deficit in goods and services of $291.2 billion, up 7.2 percent from January-June 2017.
Economists blame persistent U.S. trade deficits on the fact Americans spend more than they produce, and imports fill the gap.
In June, the United States posted a surplus of $22.5 billion in the trade of services such as banking and education. But that was offset by a $68.8 billion deficit in the trade of goods.
Despite Friday’s news, the economy is still projected to grow at about a 3 percent pace for the rest of the year, which would likely mean that growth for all of 2018 would top 3 percent for the first time since 2005.