In this Thursday, June 15, 2017, photo, a construction
worker continues work on a condominium project in Coral
WASHINGTON - U.S. employers added a
robust 222,000 jobs in June, the most in four months, a
reassuring sign that businesses may be confident enough
to keep hiring despite a slow-growing economy.
The government also revised up its estimate of job
growth for April and May by a combined 47,000. Hiring
has averaged nearly 180,000 jobs a month so far this
year, only slightly below last year's pace. The
unemployment rate ticked up to 4.4 percent from 4.3
percent in May, a 16-year low, the government said
Friday. The jobless rate rose because more Americans
began looking for work and not all of them found it.
Friday's jobs report suggested that after eight years of
a grinding but resilient recovery, companies still have
room to hire at a healthy pace. Though the rate of job
growth has slowed since 2014 and 2015, it's still
drawing in people who had previously stopped looking for
work. The proportion of adults with jobs has reached
60.1 percent, just below April's figure, which was the
highest since the recession ended in 2009.
Even with the strong hiring, average hourly pay rose
just 2.5 percent in June from a year earlier, below the
3.5 percent typical of a healthy economy. Employers in
many industries remain reluctant to raise pay.
The numbers signal that economic growth should be
decent, if not robust, through 2017, said John Silvia,
chief economist at Wells Fargo.
"It's a good report for the economy," he said. "It
really does say that we've got 2 percent-plus growth for
the second half of the year."
The June jobs report arrives against the backdrop of an
overall mixed picture of the U.S. economy.
Home sales are chugging along, though a shortage of
properties for sale suggests that the pace of purchases
could flag. And auto sales are slowing from last year's
record pace, causing some automakers to cut jobs.
At the same time, surveys of manufacturing and service
companies indicate that growth in both sectors may be
accelerating. Factory activity is expanding at the
fastest pace in three years, the Institute of Supply
Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, found.
The economy grew at just a 1.4 percent annual rate in
the first three months of 2017, below even the sluggish
2 percent average pace in the eight years since the
recession ended. But most economists have forecast that
growth rebounded in the April-June quarter to an annual
rate of 2.5 percent or higher.
Still, the economy appears resilient enough for the
Federal Reserve to keep raising its benchmark interest
rate. The Fed has signaled its belief that the economy
is on firm footing as it enters its ninth year of
recovery from the recession.
Consumers have expressed confidence in the economy and,
accordingly, are spending more than they did in the
first three months of the year.
Businesses advertised 6 million open jobs in May, a
record high, which suggests that they are struggling to
find the workers they need. Normally, as the number of
unemployed dwindles, employers raise pay to attract job
Yet the influx of job seekers last month might have
offset some upward wage pressures. Employers had more
applicants to choose from.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said
that many workers are too cautious to push for raises,
partly because of the lingering impact of the Great
Recession, when nearly 9 million people lost jobs.
And some businesses have decided they can't raise prices
enough to afford meaningful pay raises. That cycle of
limited wage gains and low prices has kept inflation in
check, to the consternation of the Fed, which wants to
see slightly higher inflation to justify its campaign to
raise short-term rates.
Still, many business owners are seeing greater
confidence among their customers. Mark Dix, a general
contractor in Knoxville, Tennessee, says he has seen a
jump in demand for the renovation, painting and home
construction services he provides. He employs 15 people.
"We're seeing a boom in people who are willing to take
out a loan and build a home," he said. "I would hire
another half-dozen people today if I could find the
Drug use is a problem among many people he considers for
jobs, Dix said. And many men in the area rely on
disability benefits, he added.
The June jobs report showed broad hiring across numerous
industries. Health care posted the biggest job gain —
59,100 — despite uncertainty around health care
legislation in Congress. Governments added an unusually
high 35,000 positions, nearly all of them at the local
level. Construction companies added 16,000, and mining,
which includes oil and gas drilling, gained 8,000.
Restaurants and hotels added a healthy 36,000 jobs.
Professional and technical services, which includes such
higher-paying occupations as engineering and accounting,