The U.S. jobs report for August being released Friday will be watched to see whether employers extended a streak of steady hiring that’s helped shrink the unemployment rate to 4.3 percent, a 16-year low.
Economists predict that the rate remained unchanged and that employers added 180,000 jobs, according to the data provider FactSet. That gain would be solid and in line with the average monthly job growth so far this year, though fewer than the 209,000 added in July and the 231,000 in June.
Also awaited will be clues to whether pay raises are finally accelerating, whether unemployment for African Americans will reach its lowest level on record and whether employers are asking their staffers to work more hours — a sign of strong customer demand.
Here are five things to look for in Friday’s jobs report:
Even though hiring has been solid, the economy still feels sluggish to the many Americans whose pay raises remain meager.
Average hourly earnings have increased just 2.5 percent over the past 12 months. That’s better than overall inflation. But it’s less than half the annual growth in home prices, meaning that many Americans are falling behind on one of the pillars of a middle class identity.
By way of contrast, average hourly earnings increased at 4 percent in 1998 for rank-and-file workers. But economists say that wage growth may remain tepid because older workers with higher salaries are retiring, while younger millennials are entering the workforce at lower salaries.
A low unemployment rate isn’t as wonderful as it might appear to be. That’s because a smaller proportion of people are working or searching for a job. (Anyone not actively looking for a job isn’t considered part of the labor force and isn’t counted as unemployed.)
The proportion of Americans either working or looking for work — the so-called labor force participation rate — was 62.9 percent in July, down from 66 percent a decade ago….