206,000 jobs were added last month

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U.S. employers added 206,000 jobs in June as hiring held steady despite persistent inflation and higher interest rates.

But the employment picture was more mixed, with job openings for April and May down by 111,000 and the private sector disappointingly adding 136,000 jobs.

Also, the unemployment rate, calculated from a separate survey of households, rose to 4.1% from 4%, the highest since November 2021, the Labor Department said on Friday. The increase was fueled by an encouraging increase in the labor force — the number of people working and job hunters — that outstripped the number of incumbents.

Economists polled by Bloomberg had estimated 195,000 jobs were added last month, so job creation modestly beat estimates.

But the job market in the spring was less buoyant than hoped. Wage gains were revised to 108,000 from 165,000 in April and 218,000 from 272,000 in May.

More broadly, economists said the report could strengthen the case for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates in early September.

Are wages falling or rising?

Average hourly wages rose 10 cents to $35, bringing the annual increase to 3.9%, the slowest since June 2021.

Wage growth has generally moderated as pandemic-related labor shortages have eased, but it has been above the 3.5% pace that is in line with the Federal Reserve’s 2% inflation target.

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Many Americans, meanwhile, have more purchasing power because typical wage increases have outpaced inflation over the past year.

Will the Fed cut interest rates in 2024?

Despite strong job gains, the report should be welcomed as the Federal Reserve expects a softer job market, particularly wage growth, to feed inflation.

„We think the Fed will almost certainly start the discussion on cutting interest rates at the upcoming (Fed) meeting, and if the data continues to moderate, will cut the policy rate in September,” wrote Rubeela Farooqui, chief economist at US High Frequency Economics. In a note to customers.

Inflation eased significantly last year but picked up in the first quarter, central bank officials say, suggesting it will take longer than expected to gain confidence that inflation is steadily approaching their 2% target. It has put off market-oriented interest rate cuts. Inflation resumed its slowdown in May, but Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said officials expected that trend to continue for several months.

Even if inflation doesn’t fall as fast as officials hope, a softening labor market will prompt the Fed to act, Powell said.

From March 2022, the central bank raised its key short-term interest rate from near zero to a 23-year high of 5.25% to 5.5%, but it has remained steady since last July as inflation slowed to a 40-year low. Maximum.

How is the job market right now?

So far this year, the job market has moderated higher interest rates and softening, still high inflation, with wage growth averaging more than 200,000 a month.

But average monthly increases slowed to 177,000 in the second quarter, from 267,000 in the first three months of the year and 251,000 in 2023.

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Forecasters expect a more gradual slowdown by the end of the year as higher borrowing costs and prices weigh heavily on consumer and business demand. Low- and middle-income households are struggling with credit card debt and historically high delinquency, which is contributing to the slowdown in retail sales. Their pandemic-related savings have largely dried up.

The Labor Department reported this week that job openings increased by 8.1 million in May. That’s still above the pre-pandemic level of 7 million, but below the 12.2 million recorded in March 2022 during a severe Covid-19-induced labor shortage and job-hopping frenzy known as the Great Resignation.

Hiring has fallen below pre-pandemic levels.

Although job growth has been remarkably resilient, this is due to employers’ reluctance to lay off workers after the labor crisis. However, jobless claims have risen in recent weeks, and economists expect layoffs to increase by the end of the year as average job growth slows to more than 100,000.

Meanwhile, unauthorized immigration, which boosted job growth by expanding the supply of available workers, has slowed since March, Morgan Stanley wrote in a research note. That, too, could dampen job growth, particularly in industries such as construction, restaurants and hotels, the research firm says.

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