The American economy gained 128,000 jobs last month. We need 90,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth, which means that net job growth clocked in at a sluggish 38,000 jobs. The labor force increased nicely, suggesting that people are coming in off the sidelines to look for jobs, but the employment-population ratio stayed the same as last month. The headline unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 3.6 percent.
The biggest loser was motor vehicles and parts, thanks to the GM strike. The biggest gainer was leisure and hospitality. Overall, goods-producing jobs were down by 26,000 while service sector jobs were up 157,000 jobs. Government jobs were down 3,000.
Hourly wages for blue-collar workers were up 2.1 percent. With inflation running at roughly 1.7 percent these days, that’s a real hourly wage increase of about 0.4 percent. That’s nothing to write home about, but at least it’s positive.