US economy adds 850,000 jobs as hiring gains pace

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The US labour market created 850,000 jobs in June, as the world’s largest economy continued to heal from the Covid-19 shock and hiring caught up with the unrelenting demand for workers.

Non-farm payrolls data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday came in well above economists’ expectations of 720,000 jobs created for the month, surpassing the upwardly revised 583,000 gain posted in May and an unexpectedly weak 278,000 new hires in April.

Despite the large monthly increase, the unemployment rate ticked up to 5.9 per cent from 5.8 per cent the month before.

The June report landed at a critical juncture for the American economy. 

Easing lockdown measures and generous government stimulus programmes have fuelled a robust rebound in economic growth this year. US consumer prices have in turn surged as supply chain constraints have hampered some businesses’ ability to meet red-hot consumer demand. 

Crippling labour shortages have also hamstrung employers, as childcare constraints and fears about catching Covid dissuade people from returning to the workforce. Some businesses blame unemployment benefits for holding up the jobs recovery, prompting several Republican-leaning US states to slash aid.

Companies have begun raising wages and doling out perks to attract new hires. Friday’s report suggested those measures have balanced some of the labour market mismatches.

Hiring in the leisure and hospitality sector picked up, with 343,000 jobs created for the month. Retailers also revved up hiring, filling 67,000 new jobs. Other sectors including public and private education and professional and business services saw improvements.

The labour force participation rate, which tracks the number of Americans either employed or looking for a job, held steady in June at 61.6 per cent. It has remained stuck below 62 per cent since last year. Average hourly earnings continued to rise, edging 10 cents higher to $30.40.

The strong jobs report helped to bolster the case made by a cohort of US central bankers that the Federal Reserve should begin to consider withdrawing its monetary policy support as it closes in on “substantial further progress” towards averaging 2 per cent inflation and achieving full employment. That has long been the threshold for any adjustment to the Fed’s $120bn monthly asset purchase programme.

Fed chair Jay Powell and other members of the Federal Open Market Committee have instead urged patience — a message they sought to hammer home last month following the release of the US central bank’s “dot plot” of individual interest rate projections, which signalled a potentially more hawkish stance than many had anticipated.

US government bonds pared initial losses after the unexpectedly strong report, with the benchmark 10-year note steady at 1.44 per cent.

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