The Labor Department reported that the economy created 151,000 new jobs in August – slightly less than generally expected. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent and the employment-to-population ratio was also unchanged.
The big job gainers in August were restaurants, which added 34,000 jobs; government, which added 25,000 (almost all at the local level); and social assistance, which added 21,700 jobs. Mining continued to lose jobs, with a drop of 4,300 in August, while manufacturing lost 14,000.
While the overall pace of job growth is still reasonably healthy even with the slowdown, a disconcerting item is a decline in the duration of the average workweek. This stood at 34.3 hours in August, down from 34.4 hours in July and 34.6 hours in August of 2015. The drop was large enough to lead to a decline of 0.2 percent in the index of aggregate weekly hours, in spite of the growth in employment.
This downward trend could indicate slower hiring in the future. It also seems to contradict the common assertion in the business press that employers are having difficulty finding qualified workers. If this were true, they would be pushing the workers they have to work longer hours.
On the household side the news was mostly positive. There was an increase in the percentage of unemployment due to voluntary quits to 11.3 percent, the highest for the recovery. All the duration measures of unemployment fell in the month. And there was a rise in the percentage of black teens with jobs to 23.3 percent, an increase of 2.7 percentage points from the July figure.