The U.S. economy generated a lower-than-expected 173,000 new jobs in August, the government reported Friday, but upward revisions to previous months' data sweetened the picture for hiring across the country. Economists and forecasters had called for about 220,000 new jobs.
Either way, the figure might be enough for the Federal Reserve to make its long-anticipated decision to raise interest rates later this month. Interest rates have been at or near zero since late 2008. Whenever it does come, it will mark the first short-term rates increase by the Fed since June 2006.
Manufacturing lost 17,000 jobs during the month, the first decline for the industry since July 2013, and is now averaging 3,500 new jobs per month this year. The average for the second half of 2014 was 20,667.
"For manufacturers, the jobs numbers continue to disappoint, much as they have for all of this year so far," National Association of Manufacturers chief economist Chad Moutray said. "Policymakers can also help by enacting pro-growth policies that help to enhance our global competitiveness and open new markets. This means passing tax reform and drafting smarter regulations, but it also necessitates passage of new trade agreements and reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank."
The overall unemployment rate fell to 5.1% from 5.3% in July, hitting the lowest level since April 2008, as the country began to plunge into recession, the Labor Department said.
The drop in the jobless rate was helped by the department revising the job creation numbers for June and July up by a total of 44,000 positions, which took the monthly average for the June-August period to a healthy 221,000 jobs a month.
Wage gains — an important indicator for inflation — remained muted, rising eight cents an hour to $25.09 from July, up 2.2% from a year ago.
Expect an upward revision around this time next month: According to Goldman Sachs, the government reported an average of about 30,000 fewer new jobs for August than anticipated, and ultimate revised upward almost 8,000 jobs.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015