June’s Employment Report showed the economy continued to edge forward, driven by momentum. But the numbers were softer than expected. That should provide a clear yellow flag to those Federal Reserve policymakers who have expressed impatience to raise interest rates.
Though the headline unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent, that decline masks underlying weakening of conditions. The fall in the unemployment rate is fully explained by a fall in labor force participation, and job creation was on the weaker side.
The economy created 223,000 jobs, which is below the twelve month average of 250,000. Furthermore, April and May job creation numbers were revised down by 60,000.
This relative weakness is also reflected in average hourly wages which were unchanged. A strong labor market should produce sustained wage gains significantly above inflation, but we have not yet seen that.
There are solid reasons for these mixed conditions. The strong dollar is encouraging imports and discouraging manufacturing job creation. Budget austerity continues to strangle public sector investment and public sector job creation. The strong dollar and budget austerity are policy failures we can, should and must fix.