About 162,000 people found new jobs last month (which is good), but that's a lot fewer than economists were expecting (that's bad), even though the unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since the end of 2008. (That's good! Unless it isn't.)
While today's monthly jobs report was by no means a disaster, it was a little disappointing on some fronts, particularly after a week of stellar economic news on several other fronts. Wednesday's ADP jobs survey was great, consumer spending is still going up, unemployment claims are down, the federal deficit is shrinking, and the stock markets have been on fire lately. Naturally, there was a lot of enthusiasm for a huge number that didn't come through.
Yet, there's so many other factors to consider. It's July, which is often a slow month for hiring. But that also means most of the jobs that were created were part-time, and low-paying. The government is hiring again, which is good or bad depending on your philosophy of government spending.
Graphic: U.S. nonfarm payrolls grew by 162,000 in July. pic.twitter.com/GjhbzL3gTP— Reuters Business (@ReutersBiz) August 2, 2013
The only "problem" with the 7.4 percent unemployment rate is that it brings us closer to the "taper" or the phasing out Federal Reserve's spending program that has kept interest rates low and money pouring into the economy. They've promised to end that program as long as the job market keeps improving, but are being very careful with the timing for fear of pulling a brake on the economy at the wrong time. Investors have been trying for months to guess when that taper might happen, and they now know that we're very, very close. But they aren't there yet.
Number of long-term unemployed keeps coming down, to 4.246m from 5.167m a year ago.— Neil Irwin (@Neil_Irwin) August 2, 2013
So the trends continue to move in the right direction, but no one is ready to declare victory over the great recession just yet. We're still living in an economy that's very much on edge, particularly for the millions of people who still can't find the good jobs they're looking for.