The American economy gained 266,000 jobs last month. We need 90,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth, which means that net job growth clocked in at 176,000 jobs. This seems like a very robust number, but unfortunately most of it was a statistical artifact of a lot of people exiting the labor force. In real life, the number of employed was up modestly and the number of unemployed was down modestly. The employment-population ratio stayed the same as last month. The headline unemployment rate ticked down slightly to 3.5 percent.
Hourly wages for blue-collar workers were up a very healthy 3.7 percent. With inflation running at roughly 1.8 percent these days, that’s a real hourly wage increase of about 2.1 percent. That’s a great number, and it would be even better if we could sustain it for several months running.