A mixed jobs report showed that the economy added 173,000 jobs in August – the smallest gain since March – after adding 245,000 in July. The bulk of the month’s growth (one-third of the jobs created) came out of healthcare and social assistance. The unemployment rate fell to 5.1% – the lowest since April 2008, however, the labor force participation rate is stuck near the lowest level since the 1970’s at 62.6%.
After hitting a four-year high in July, planned job cuts plunged 60% in August, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, as employers announced plans to lay off 41,186 people. So far this year, the energy industry is leading in job cuts with almost 72,000 layoffs announced: “The stream of job cuts related to oil prices appears to be ebbing. The majority of these cuts came in the first four months of 2015, when we saw more than 68,000 layoffs related to oil … It is too soon to say if we have seen the last of the big oil cuts. As we head into the final months of 2015, there are definitely some red flags that suggest we may see more layoffs from the energy sector, as well as in other areas of the economy.”
The trade deficit narrowed 7.5% to $41.9 billion in July as exports rose for the first time in three months. Exports increased to $188.5 billion, led by autos and industrial equipment while imports fell to $230.4 billion on a drop in cell phones. The trade gap with the European Union hit a record.
Source: Census Bureau
On a positive note, construction spending rose to an annual rate of $1.08 trillion in July, the highest level in more than seven years, driven by a 1.3% surge in private construction spending. At the same time, public construction spending fell 1%. Overall construction spending has increased for eight consecutive months.
On a downbeat note, manufacturing grew at the slowest pace in over two years in August. The ISM manufacturing index slipped to 51.1%, and measures of new orders, employment and exports fell.
The service sector slowed in August as the ISM non-manufacturing index slipped to 59%, backing away from a ten-year high reached in July, with measures of new orders and employment declining.