Labor report: Jobless rate down, payrolls up

The unemployment rate in the United States has edged down even as payrolls continue to grow.

The jobless rate slipped a tenth of a point to 3.9 percent and nonfarm payrolls increased 157,000 in July, according to the latest Labor Department estimates.

The unemployment rate was slightly lower at 3.8 percent in May, the lowest level since the rate also stood at 3.8 percent in April 2000. The jobless rate fell to 3.4 percent in 1969 and slid to a record low 2.7 percent in December 1952. The increase in payrolls extends the string of gains to 94 straight months.

What was initially estimated as a gain of 213,000 jobs in June was revised upward to 248,000. The May gain was revised upward from 244,000 to 268,000. With the latest numbers, payrolls have increased an average of 224,000 a month over the past three months and 203,000 a month over the past year.

Still, 6.3 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work in July. Of those, 1.4 million have been out of work 27 weeks or longer. Another 4.6 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours had been cut or they’ve been unable to find full-time positions.

Job gains for July were spread out among industry sectors. Business and professional services added 51,000 positions, while employment increased 37,000 in manufacturing, 34,000 in health care and social assistance and 26,000 in food services and drinking places. Payrolls increased 19,000 in construction and 7,000 in retail trades.

The average workweek slipped a tenth of an hour to 34.5 hours. The average manufacturing workweek held steady at 40.9 hours.

Average hourly earnings on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 7 cents to $27.05. Average hourly earnings have increased 71 cents, or 2.7 percent, over the past year.