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Monthly Jobs Report Shows Fresh Signs Of Slowing U.S. Economy


There are some fresh signs that the U.S. economy is slowing in the monthly jobs report out this morning from the Labor Department. Employers added only 130,000 jobs in August. Now, that's less than forecasters had expected, and it's a sharp slowdown from where we were this time last year. NPR's Scott Horsley is with me now in studio.

Hey, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Noel.

KING: So this report comes at the end of a week where there were some mixed signals about the economy. What do we think it's telling us?

HORSLEY: I think it's basically underscoring what we've been saying, which is that economic growth has downshifted. We've gone from adding about 230,000 jobs a month at the end of 2018 to now 130,000 jobs a month. And that number in August would have been lower still had it not been for the temporary hiring of some 25,000 census workers. In addition, the job gains for June and July were revised down by a total of 20,000 jobs.

We're particularly seeing a slowdown in the factory sector. That's been a sector that the president likes to talk about, but it's been hard hit by his trade war as well as by the general slump in global demand. But we're also seeing that the slowdown's not limited to manufacturing. We've seen a general deceleration across the board. And even though consumer spending is still strong, a lot of that spending's happening in nontraditional stores now, so the retail sector continues to hemorrhage jobs. Retailers shed another 11,000 workers last month.

KING: But - and this is the tricky thing. We've talked about this before. The unemployment rate is still low, right - about 3.7%?

KING: It is. This is still a tight job market. And as you know, Noel, the unemployment rate's calculated from a different survey. But we do hear from a lot of employers who say they're having trouble finding workers. We did see some positives in this monthly report from the Labor Department. There was a jump in workforce participation, and more than half a million new people joined the workforce, drawn in by what's still a pretty solid job market. And we saw average wages pick up a little bit, which is - means workers' spending power is getting a boost. As long as workers keep spending, you're going to see the economy continue to chug along, albeit at a slower pace.

KING: All right. NPR's Scott Horsley.

Scott, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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