U.S. labor update: Payrolls up, jobless rate down

U.S. employers continued to hire in July as the unemployment rate edged down.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 187,000 and the jobless rate slipped a tenth of a point to 3.5 percent, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Payroll gains for the previous two months were revised downward a total of 49,000 to 185,000 for June and 281,000 for May.

The latest numbers remain below the average monthly payroll gain of 312,000 over the past year.

For July, the number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work was little changed at 5.8 million. Of those, 1.2 million have been out of work 27 weeks or longer.

Another 4 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours were reduced or they were unable to find full-time positions.

The labor participation rate — the proportion of the population either working or actively looking for work — remained unchanged at 62.6 percent for a fifth consecutive month. That’s still below the rate posted before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in early 2020.

Payroll gains for July were spread out among industry sectors. Employment increased 63,000 in health care, 24,000 in social assistance, 19,000 in both construction and financial activities, 18,000 in wholesale trades and 17,000 in leisure and hospitality. Payrolls fell 8,000 in professional and business services.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls edged down a tenth of an hour to 34.3 hours. The average manufacturing workweek held steady at 40.1 hours.

Average hourly earnings increased 14 cents to $33.74. Wages have increased an average of 4.4 percent over the past year.