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August jobs report: U.S. payrolls grew by 315,000 last month

The U.S. labor market grew as expected in August as more people entering the workforce pushed the unemployment rate higher last month.

Here are the highlights from the Labor Department's monthly jobs report released Friday, compared to consensus estimates from Bloomberg.

  • Non-farm payrolls: +315,000 vs. +298,000 expected

  • Unemployment rate: 3.7% vs. 3.5% expected

  • Average hourly earnings, month-over-month: +0.3% vs. +0.4% expected

  • Average hourly earnings, year-over-year: +5.2% vs. +5.3% expected

The labor force participation rate in August also registered a notable uptick, to 62.4% from 62.1% the prior month, matching the highest level since March 2020.

Friday's report showed a modest revision to July's payroll growth, with the BLS now estimating 526,000 jobs were created last month, down from the 528,000 previously reported. Between revisions to June and July's figures, there were 107,000 fewer jobs created over those months than initially estimated.

Still, job gains over the last three months have averaged 378,000. In 2019, average monthly job gains stood at 164,000.

Continued growth in the labor market comes amid this summer's series of larger-than-anticipated rate hikes by the Federal Reserve to cool economic growth in its fight against inflation.

In a speech last week in Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said, "The labor market is particularly strong, but it is clearly out of balance, with demand for workers substantially exceeding the supply of available workers."

Powell suggested "some softening" of labor market conditions would likely be required to bring down inflation towards the Fed's goal of 2%. As of July, consumer prices were up 8.5% on a year-over-year basis.

"A 75 basis point rate hike is nearly certain at this point," Ron Temple, head of U.S. equity at Lazard Asset Management, said in a note Friday, adding that monthly job gains must be less than a third of current levels to get inflation back down to the Fed's 2% target.

"Combined with the return of more workers to the labor force as shown in the participation rate and the job opening figures earlier this week, all signs point to a very strong labor market that has yet to respond to tighter monetary policy," he said.

Still, stocks reacted positively to the report. At the start of Friday's session, the S&P 500 rose 0.7%, the Dow jumped 140 points, or about 0.5%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 0.6%.

"The labor market has been in the eye of an economic hurricane, the calm center amid recession and inflation’s fears swirling around it," ManpowerGroup Chief Commercial Officer Becky Frankiewicz said. "Today, the reported number of new jobs reinforced the labor market is holding strong."

At the industry level, the retail sector was a standout in August, with 44,000 new jobs added or created during the month — an increase from a gain of 22,000 in this area across the prior month.

Continued hiring across the retail sector came even as consumer giants such as Walmart announced plans to lay off workers amid the prospect of an economic downturn and rising inflation.

Employers across leisure and hospitality notably hired fewer workers during the month, with 31,000 jobs added, down sharply from a gain of 96,000 in July. Previously this sector was averaging gains of about 90,000 per month as lifting of COVID restrictions continued to drive consumer demand for dining, lodging, and other in-person activities.

Bar owner Pat Hughes, cleans his beer taps at Scruffy Duffy's, which has been closed for more than a year. in New York, U.S., May 17, 2021. Picture taken May 17, 2021.  REUTERS/Roselle Chen
Bar owner Pat Hughes, cleans his beer taps at Scruffy Duffy's, which has been closed for more than a year. in New York, U.S., May 17, 2021. Picture taken May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Roselle Chen

Although the labor market has completed its pandemic recovery, employment in leisure and hospitality remains at 1.2 million, or 7.2% below pre-pandemic figures.

The professional and business services sector was among sectors that led gains in August, with 68,000 jobs added last month. This area of employment continued to trend well above its February 2020, level with most jobs added across computer systems design and related services, management and technical consulting services, architectural and engineering services, and scientific research and development services.

Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc

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