US Economy Added Fewer Jobs Than Expected in August

A Waffle House representative speaks to potential applicants during a job and resource fair in Atlanta on Aug. 14, 2019. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

(CN) – The American economy added a somewhat disappointing 130,000 jobs in August, while the unemployment rate held steady at a healthy 3.7% for the third month in a row.

Economists had predicted about 160,000 new jobs. The lower-than-expected number means the Federal Reserve is likely to cut interest rates again, after doing so in late July for the first time in more than a decade.

However, the unemployment rate has remained at 3.7% – the lowest level is nearly 50 years – since June.

Average hourly earnings were also up 3.2% from a year ago, according to a Labor Department report released Friday.

A significant number of the new jobs added in August came from the temporary hiring of 25,000 workers for the 2020 Census. Not counting government hiring, the U.S. economy only added 96,000 jobs last month.

The economy marked 10 consecutive years of expansion this summer, the longest streak on record. And while the economy is still expanding, that growth has slowed so far this year.

The Commerce Department said in July that the growth in the gross domestic product, a primary indicator of economic health, dropped to 2.1% in the second quarter, down from 3.1% in the first.

Economists expect yearly growth of about 2.5% in 2019, a decrease from 2.9% last year.

In light of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, lagging inflation and global growth fears, the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates on July 31 for the first time since the start of the recession more than a decade ago. The benchmark short-term rate, which influences consumer and business loans from mortgages to credit cards and home equity lines of credit, is now between 2% and 2.25%.

Many expect the central bank to cut rates again at its Sept. 18 meeting.

Stocks rose on Thursday after it was announced that U.S. and Chinese officials are set to meet in early October to continue trade negotiations.

In an apparent sign of the affect of the trade war, American manufacturers added just 3,000 jobs in August.

The retail industry lost 11,000 jobs last month, while shipping and warehousing jobs numbers were unchanged.

Professional and business services added 37,000 new jobs. The health care and financial industries gained 24,000 and 15,000 jobs, respectively.

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