U.S. labor estimates reflect slowing job growth

Job growth continues in the United States, but at a slowing pace.

According to the latest Labor Department estimates, nonfarm payrolls increased 96,000 in August, less than what many economists had expected. Moreover, initial estimates for payroll gains the previous two months were revised downward.

The national unemployment rate slipped two-tenths of a point to 8.1 percent in September, but reflected a decrease in the size of the labor force more than an increase in payrolls as an estimated 368,000 people up gave on job searches.

The latest statistical snapshot of the labor market once again presents a picture of continued, albeit slow, job growth, yet little significant change in the ranks of the long-term unemployed.

Initial estimates for payroll gains in July and June were revised downward a combined 41,000 to 186,000. Given the latest figures, payrolls have increased on average 139,000 a month since the beginning of 2012. That compares to an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011.

The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work in August was little changed at 12.5 million. The number of people who’ve been out of work 27 weeks or more was little changed at 5 million and accounted for 40 percent of the overall ranks of the unemployed.

Another 8 million people were counted among those working part time because their hours had been cut back or they couldn’t find full-time jobs. For August, nonfarm payroll gains were spread out among a number of industry sectors.

Employment rose 28,000 at food service and drinking places, bringing job gains in the sector over the past year to 298,000. Payrolls in professional and technical services increased 27,000 with gains in computer systems design and technical consulting services.

Health care employment continued to trend upward with 17,000 net new jobs. Hiring as slowed somewhat in the sector, with job gains averaging 15,000 a month between June and August, about half the average monthly gains for the prior year.

Within the financial activities sector, finance and insurance payrolls grew 11,000. Utility payrolls grew 9,000 as workers returned to their jobs aftter a labor dispute.

Meanwhile, though, manufacturers shed 15,000 jobs and government payrolls declined another 7,000 with cuts at the state and local levels.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls held steady at 34.4 hours in August, while the average manufacturing workweek was shorter by 12 minutes at 40.5 hours.

Average hourly earnings on private, nonfarm payrolls slipped a cent to $23.53. Over the past year, average hourly wages have increased 1.7 percent.