Newspaper article International New York Times

Status Quo Jobs Report Shows Economy Isn't Overheating

Newspaper article International New York Times

Status Quo Jobs Report Shows Economy Isn't Overheating

Article excerpt

Numbers are so consistent with expectations that an interest rate increase seems less likely.

The latest United States jobs report is a prime example of data that affirms the status quo. And that's not such a bad thing.

Nearly everything about the August data from the Labor Department on Friday aligns with the basic trajectory the economy has been on for years now. We have been seeing steady improvement without signs of overheating. The new numbers fit that story precisely.

Indeed, the report is so consistent with longstanding evidence of how the economy is doing that we probably wouldn't care much at all about the August numbers if the Federal Reserve weren't on the precipice of raising interest rates at its September policy meeting.

If there's good news in the report, it's not that the economy is doing any better than we thought, but rather that the numbers are consistent enough with expectations that bond traders can head to the Hamptons or wherever they plan to spend their Labor Day break. The Fed chairwoman, Janet Yellen, and her colleagues can safely do the same.

The status quo in this case is pretty solid. The 151,000 jobs that United States employers added in August is far below the gaudy 275,000 added in July, but the more recent number is more consistent with what you would expect in an economy already getting close to full employment. The July number is more what you expect during the recovery from a recession, not when most of the people who want a job already have one.

In terms of more data that affirms the status quo: Previous months' data was revised down by a minuscule 1,000 jobs; the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent. The proportion of the population that is in the labor force was unchanged, as was the proportion of the United States adult population with a job. Average hourly earnings rose by a not-very-impressive 0.1 percent. The fine print of the new numbers tilts even more clearly away from the Fed's pulling the trigger on an interest rate increase when its policy committee meets Sept. …

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