The jobs report: strong, steady job growth takes hold

Job seekers wait in line to enter the San Francisco Hire Event job fair.

The U.S. Labor Department's monthly employment report for August is expected to show some improvement in the job market from July. The consensus among economists is for 230,000 jobs to have been added to private and public-sector payrolls, and for the unemployment rate to have declined 0.1 percent to 6.1 percent.

The trend is now stable and well-established after five years of labor-market improvement that only came in fits and starts, says economist Gary Burtless at the Brookings Institution.

Burtless points out that private businesses have been adding more than 200,000 jobs per month.

“In the last six months, the government has joined the party,” Burtless said. “Public employment is now rising again, although very slowly. As long as these jobs reports continue, I think everyone should be heartened.”

Burtless and other economists are discouraged by anemic wage growth, though. In the years since the recession ended, paychecks for most Americans have just barely kept pace with inflation.

Economist Elise Gould at the Economic Policy Institute says that shows there’s still significant slack in the labor market. Employers don’t have to offer higher pay to attract and retain workers, and workers don’t have much bargaining power.

“Workers are really not seeing the growing productivity, the growing economy, in higher wages,” Gould said.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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