Leave Regular Radio Behind
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Economy Generated 156,000 Jobs In August, Short Of Estimates

Updated at 11 a.m. ET

The U.S. economy created an estimated 156,000 jobs in August, falling slightly short of analysts' estimates, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 4.4 percent; it had been at 4.3 percent.

Economists had predicted a gain of between 170,000 to 180,000 jobs last month. But August job growth often falls short of initial estimates, only to be revised higher later on. Seasonal adjustments for August are challenging because many hiring managers are on vacation and students leave summer jobs and head back to school.

Friday's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also cut previous estimates for job growth in June and July by a combined 41,000 — the July figure was revised to 189,000 from 209,000, and the June number dropped to 210,000 from 231,000.

Still, the average job growth for the past 3 months is 185,000 according to government data. That's quite robust for this point in a recovery, more than enough to put downward pressure on the unemployment rate. August was the 83rd consecutive month of job growth in the U.S. economy.


Wage growth also slowed in August, with the average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rising by 3 cents, to $26.39. In July, by contrast, average hourly wages rose by 9 cents, to $26.36.

"Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 65 cents, or 2.5 percent," the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.

But Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, says the August wage increase was likely artificially low because the survey was completed before the 15th of the month when many workers get a paycheck. So any August pay increases for those workers wouldn't be reflected in the report. Shepherdson says in a research note that he "expects a rebound " in wage growth in September.

As for where the jobs were added, the BLS says the biggest gain was in manufacturing, with 36,000 jobs. The sector has now added 155,000 jobs since November 2016, when it hit a recent employment low.

The increase in factory jobs included gains in motor vehicles and parts (adding 14,000 jobs), fabricated metal products (5,000), and computer and electronic products (4,000), the agency says.

The BLS also added a note about the natural disaster that has hit parts of Texas and Louisiana — and that is certain to have a large economic impact.

"Hurricane Harvey had no discernable effect on the employment and unemployment data for August," the report stated. "Household survey data collection was completed before the storm."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.