Unemployment Rate Drops to 7.4%

The Department of Labor released its July employment situation report (link opens in PDF) today. After increasing a revised 188,000 in June, total nonfarm payroll employment tacked on 162,000 jobs this past month, missing analyst estimates of 175,000.

The latest number is a modest increase and the fewest since March.

At first glance, the unemployment rate offers some hope for the labor market. Clocking in at 7.4% for July, the new rate falls 0.2 percentage points below June's rate and 0.1 points below analysts' expectations. However, even as the number of unemployed fell 263,000, the rate received an extra boost from a 37,000-person decrease in the overall labor force.

Source: Labor Department.

In the private sector, retail trade added 47,000 jobs for July, food services and drinking places increased 38,000, and professional and businesses services bumped up 36,000. Manufacturing, health care, and government employment numbers stayed steady from June.

For those with jobs, July's hourly earnings edged down 0.1%, while the average workweek dipped 0.3% to 34.4 hours. (In manufacturing, the workweek decreased by 0.2 hour to 40.6 hours, and overtime declined
by 0.2 hour to 3.2 hours.) Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls edged down by $0.02 cents to $23.98, following a $0.10-cent increase in June. Analysts had expected earnings to head up 0.2% with no change to the workweek. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by $0.44, or 1.9%.

Many of the jobs that employers added in July are only part-time. The number of Americans who said they were working part-time but would prefer full-time work stands at 8.2 million -- the highest since last fall.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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