There was some good news and some not so good news on the employment front issued earlier this morning. To wit, at 8:30AM (EDT), the Labor Department reported that the nation had added 162,000 jobs in July. That level was somewhat below the latest consensus expectation of 184,000. The 162,000 number also was below the downwardly revised 188,000 positions added in June. Initially, the June payroll increase had been estimated at 195,000. Also, the increase for May was reduced from 195,000 to 176,000. Thus, from the job creation point of view, the three-month performance, albeit respectable, was less impressive than expected.

On the other hand, the unemployment rate, which many had suggested would fall from 7.6% to 7.5% last month, declined more sharply, to 7.4%. Tempering this apparent good news was the fact that the number of long-term unemployed (those without work for 27 weeks, or longer), was little changed at 4.2 million. Still, the number of long-term unemployed has fallen by 921,000 over the past year. It should be noted, however, that this figure accounts for 37% of the aggregate jobless total.

Moreover, the number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (often referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged at 8.2 million. In another sobering metric, the number of discouraged workers in July shot up by 136,000 from a year earlier. The new total was 988,000. From such figures, it can be surmised that the labor force declined a little last month. 

In some other dour aspects of this latest report, average hourly earnings ticked down by two cents last month. The expectation had been for a gain of 0.2 cents. At the same time, the average workweek eased by 0.1 hour in July. to 34.4 hours. The forecast had been for a workweek of 34.5 hours. In the manufacturing sector, the workweek declined somewhat more sharply, falling by 0.2 hours, to 40.6 hours.

Looked at collectively, this was not an upbeat report. The jobless rate decline can largely be argued away as being a consequence of a shrinking labor force, while the job additions, while still appreciable, were less than forecast. Also, the prior two months suffered downward revisions. This report follows directly on the heels of a surprisingly good survey on manufacturing activity issued yesterday morning. So the overall direction is still quite positive for the economy, but there are still some soft spots to contend with as has been the case throughout this now lengthy, but underwhelming, business expansion.

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.