The American economy added 138,000 new jobs last month, 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at 48,000 jobs. That’s pretty weak, but the headline unemployment rate ticked down slightly to 4.3 percent anyway. This was mainly because a whopping 608,000 people left the labor force, not because there were more people working. In fact, the number of employed workers declined by 233,000 last month and the labor participation rate declined by 0.2 percent.
Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees went up at an annual rate of 1.7 percent. Inflation is currently running at about 2.2 percent, so this represents a decline of about 0.5 percent. Yuck. Whatever progress we had been making toward higher wages for blue-collar workers has pretty much collapsed over the past few months.