Friday’s Employment Situation report for July from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) beat expectations, but only because expectations were so low. The net gain in total payroll employment of 117 thousand looks good after the dismal May and June figures of 25 thousand and 18 thousand, respectively, reported last month. The May and June numbers were revised upward to 53 thousand and 46 thousand in today’s report. The private sector payroll gains were marginally better with 99 thousand, 80 thousand and 154 thousand for May, June and July, respectively.
The government sector shed another 37 thousand jobs. State and local governments shed 39 thousand while the federal government added 2 thousand to payrolls. The BLS noted that the state government declines were dominated by the partial shutdown of the Minnesota state government. Local government payroll declines, roughly 74 percent of the state and local sector declines since January 2010, continued unabated.
The BLS described the number of unemployed persons and the unemployment rate from the household survey as having “changed little from July.” The decline in the unemployment rate from 9.2 to 9.1 percent was the result of the civilian labor force participation rate edging downward in July. The BLS noted “since April, the unemployment rate has show little definitive movement.”
Some analysts are describing this month’s employment report as encouraging. It seems that’s only true because all the other news has been worse.