WASHINGTON – The United States’ headline unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7 percent in August, its lowest level since 1969, while non-farm payrolls in the world’s largest economy rose by 130,000, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The US economy remains close to full employment, although the number of new jobs was below the 170,000 forecast by economists.
In its employment situation report, the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said that federal government employment rose during the month, largely reflecting the hiring of temporary workers for the 2020 Census.
It added that significant employment gains also occurred in health care and financial activities, although jobs were lost in the mining sector.
The US labor force participation rate (the share of the population 16 years and older either working or seeking work) rose slightly to 63.2 percent in August but has shown little change, on net, thus far this year, the BLS said.
Average hourly earnings for employees on private non-farm payrolls climbed by $0.11 from July to $28.11.
Wages were up 3.2 percent from August 2018, compared to a 3.3 percent year-over-year gain in July.
US employment has risen for 107 consecutive months, the longest jobs-expansion streak on record.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the Federal Reserve’s policy-making body, voted in its most recent meeting in late July to lower the central bank’s benchmark interest rate by a quarter point to a target range of between 2-2.25 percent.
That widely expected move marked the first reduction in the federal-funds rate since the 2008 financial crisis.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters then that the federal-funds rate could be reduced further but that the July 31 action was “not the beginning of a long series of rate cuts.”
Powell recalled that the Fed had been raising interest rates in recent years (starting in late 2015) and added that the action was “intended to insure against downside risks from weak global growth and trade policy uncertainty,” a reference to US President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
The Fed chairman also said then that the FOMC was thinking of the rate cut in terms of a “mid-cycle adjustment to policy.”
The FOMC will make its next interest rate decision at a Sept. 17-18 policy meeting, when it will present its latest US macroeconomic projections.
Trump, who is seeking higher US economic growth ahead of his re-election bid next year, has repeatedly pressured the Fed to further lower borrowing costs.
The president on Friday tweeted that the Federal Reserve raised interest rates too soon and then took too long to start lowering them, placing the blame squarely on Powell.
“Where did I find this guy Jerome? Oh well, you can’t win them all!” Trump said.