by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
On the celebratory side, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nonfarm payrolls rose last month by 195,000, against a consensus expectation of 175,000. With upward revisions to April and May of 70,000, the cumulative contribution from the June report came to a healthy 265,000.
On the damper side, two key indicators discouraged hopes that anything as respectable as 3% annual gains in real gross domestic product are on the immediate horizon. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index rebounded from 49 in May—technically signaling contraction—to 50.9 in June, signaling modest expansion. A reading of 50.9 correlates with about 2.5% annual real-GDP growth.
Confirming that downbeat expectation, the ISM’s index of activity in the services sector fell 1.5 points in June, to 52.2, also signaling modest growth. In the second quarter, the post-great-recession expansion completed its fourth year without ever showing four-quarter growth as high as 3%—a fairly routine number in previous expansions.
Even the upbeat jobs report wasn’t without dampeners. The jobless rate held steady at 7.6%, unimproved since March. The number of involuntary part-timers—those working part-time but seeking full-time jobs—rose by nearly a third of a million in June, causing a jump in the broadest measure of the “augmented” unemployment rate (U-6) to a four-month high of 14.3%.
The recent gains in nonfarm payrolls also look less impressive when viewed more appropriately in percentage, rather than absolute, terms. Over the past six months, private-sector jobs have risen by just 1.1%, a bit lower than the six-month pace of 1.2% in April. Both rates of increase are slow, compared with those in previous expansions.