August Jobs Report: Transportation Up, Manufacturing Down
The good news: The U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs in August.
The bad news: That number fell short of economic forecasts of 180,000 jobs. And wage growth was weaker than expected. And just about all of the added jobs were in the service sector, which has a higher percentage of low-wage and part-time positions.
But even the bad news isn’t all bad according to some economists, who attribute the slowdown in added jobs to an economy that is nearing full employment. Perhaps not as many new jobs were added because not as many new jobs were needed.
If there is an area of genuine concern it is in manufacturing, which showed industry contraction for the first time since February. The U.S. economy lost 14,000 manufacturing jobs, and 24,000 jobs in the goods-producing sector, which includes manufacturing as well as mining and construction. Durable goods and transportation equipment led the way in losses. Both business activity and new orders are down.
When the factory sector contracts, it triggers concerns over whether the decline is temporary, or a portent of a period of sustained weakness.
The numbers look better in other sectors: retail trade added more than 15,000 jobs in August, emerging from a broad range of industry subsectors. Wholesale trade gained 3,900 jobs.
Transportation and warehousing added 14,900 jobs, particularly in couriers and messengers (+4,000) and warehousing and storage (+4,300). For-hire trucking added 3,400 jobs, on top of 1,700 jobs added in July. That almost compensates for the more than 6,000 jobs lost in June.
Interest Rates Up?
While speculation continues on what the job numbers suggest about the state of the economy as a whole, and what impact that may have on a presidential election now less than two months away, there is one more question about to be answered as a result of a slowing but still steady hiring trend: is this the time to raise interest rates?
Investors gauge the odds of a December rate increase at 57 percent, up from 54 percent.
The dollar recently reversed losses, another sign from the investment community that rates will go up before the end of the year—possibly as early as the next Federal Reserve meeting on September 20-21. Omer Esiner, chief market analyst as Commonwealth Foreign Exchange, believes that’s a long shot, “but this does not reduce the odds of a December increase at all.”