August jobs report: Unemployment holds steady at 3.9%

Non-farm payrolls increased by 201,000

The unemployment rate in August remained at 3.9%, according to the latest Employment Situation Summary report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the report, the number of unemployed persons decreased only slightly at 6.2 million in August. The jobless rates for all other groups, including men at 3.5%, women 3.6%, teenagers at 12.8%, whites at 3.4%, blacks at 6.3%, Asians at 3% and Hispanics at 4.7% — these all showed little or no change over the month.

Total non-farm payroll employment increased by 201,000 in August, compared with an average monthly gain of 196,000 over the past 12 months.

The majority of job gains in August can be attributed to an increase in jobs in professional and business services, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, mining and healthcare.

Here are some of the areas which showed notable changes in August:

  • Employment in professional and business services increased 53,000
  • Employment in wholesale trade increased 22,000
  • Employment in transportation and warehousing increased 20,000
  • Employment in mining increased 6,000
  • Employment in healthcare increased 33,000

In August construction employment increased by 23,000 jobs and has increased by 297,000 over the year.

However the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index revealed concerns about market affordability contributed to homebuilder confidence falling one point to 67 in August.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls remained steady at 34.5 hours in August.

In August, average hourly earnings for all employees on private non-farm payrolls increased by 10 cents to $27.16, which is an increase of 77 cents or 2.9% over the year. Chief Economist Danielle Hale said the 9-year high in wage growth ensures the federal government will raise rates at their meeting later this September and could possibly raise the odds of a more than 25 basis point increase.

This may be true as Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market survey showed rates had finally seen an uptick.

“While higher income growth is a welcome sign for workers, income growth alone won’t be sufficient to resolve the mismatch in price between home shopper budgets and homes available for sale," Hale said.

“More construction at entry and mid-level price points is needed to slow down price growth. Fortunately, continued growth in construction employment is a good indicator that more building is on the way,” Hale concluded.

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