FROM OUR COMPANY CHIEF ECONOMIST, SELMA HEPP
Strong August U.S. Jobs Growth Suggests That Higher Interest Rates Are Coming
Today’s national employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers continued support for strong economic growth, with an increase of 201,000 jobs in August.
Over the last 12 months, the U.S. economy has added 2.33 million jobs. After downward revisions of June and July data, job gains have averaged 185,000 per month over the last three months. The current economic cycle is the longest continuous expansion on record, with 95 straight months of job additions.
The national unemployment rate remained at 3.9 percent. The alternative measure of examining the number of people working part-time for economic reasons (in other words, those who would prefer full-time employment) decreased further to 7.4 percent, the lowest level since April 2001.
Another of the report’s positive points was a pickup in wage growth, which is up by 2.9 percent over the year. The growth rate has been slow and in August reached the highest level since the middle of 2009, with a 77-cent increase in average hourly earnings for all employees.
Job additions were generally positive across most sectors, with manufacturing employment falling by 3,000 jobs after 12 months of continuous gains. The largest gains remain in the professional and business services sector, with 53,000 jobs added in August and more than 500,000 positions created over the year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Opening Labor Turnover Survey released earlier this month says that open positions remain at historical highs, with 6.6 million job openings in June. The continued highs in job openings confirm survey data showing that the share of small businesses reporting that they have at least one job to fill rose to the highest level in the survey’s history. The number of openings remains highest in the accommodation and food services industries, as well as in health care and social assistance. Note that these are generally not high-income jobs. The information sector also continued to add jobs at a robust pace, though slightly slower than in April, when it reached the highest rate since 2007.
According to a CompTIA report released today, the information-technology sector shed 400 jobs in August for the first time after 14 consecutive months of gains. Year to date, the tech sector has added 58,300 positions. Four of five categories showed job gains, with only the telecommunications category down by 20,600 jobs for the year. The number of employer job postings in August for core technology positions declined by 39,000 but still totaled more than 261,000. However, even with large monthly fluctuations in the number of openings, 2018 has averaged about 50,000 more openings than in the previous two years.
By all measures, today’s jobs report suggests that the Federal Reserve remains on track to increase interest rates two more times this year. Pacific Union’s recent analysis on the impact of rising mortgage rates suggests that shorter term — through the end of 2018 — 30-year, fixed rate mortgages are still not expected to rise above 4.7 percent.