ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.S. added 528,000 jobs in July, reports the CNBC and the Wall Street Journal, which was more than expected by analysts and brings payroll back to pre-pandemic levels. The unemployment rate was 3.5%. Wages increased as well, with hourly wages rising 0.5% month over month and 5.2% year over year.
The leisure and hospitality industry added the most jobs—96,000, followed by professional and business services with 89,000. The health-care sector added 70,000 jobs, and government jobs increased by 57,000. Construction was up 32,000, and manufacturing added 30,000.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that both total nonfarm employment and the unemployment rate have returned to their February 2020 pre-pandemic levels. Total nonfarm employment has increased by 22 million since reaching a low in April 2020 and has returned to its pre-pandemic level. Private-sector employment is 629,000 higher than in February 2020, although several sectors have yet to recover. Government employment is 597,000 lower than its pre-pandemic level.
The increase in jobs comes as companies are beginning to lay off employees. Walmart recently laid off hundreds of corporate employees, and Robinhood let go 23% of its staff.
“Companies used to reach for layoffs as the first option,” Greg Daco, chief economist for EY-Parthenon, a consulting firm, told the Journal. “Now we’re seeing slower hiring as option No. 1, followed by targeted hiring freezes, followed by targeted layoffs, followed by broader layoffs.”
The Journal reports that total job openings remained well above the number of unemployed workers looking for a job in July.
The higher-than-expected jobs numbers come as the economy is dealing with decades-high inflation. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by another 0.75% in hopes it can create a “soft landing” for the economy without a major increase in unemployment. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently said the number of job openings could fall significantly without a big rise in unemployment.
Some economists believe workers will continue to look for jobs as inflation weighs on households, despite a cooling of the labor market. Many people who previously retired have reentered the workforce due to rising prices. ZipRecruiter found that among the 21.5% of current job seekers who say that they previously retired at some point, 35.8% ranked inflation as the top reason that they have returned to the job market. An additional 26.2% said that they are rejoining the workforce because they are running out of retirement savings.
NACS hosted three webinars in June that discussed innovative ways to address the labor shortage facing the convenience retailing industry. Convenience retailers also can access the Good Jobs Calculator, designed exclusively for NACS members and the convenience industry. The tool allows retailers to use their own data and customized assumptions about the amount of improvement or uplift achievable, so executives can run scenarios on the bottom-line impact of a Good Jobs system.
Revisit “Understanding Your Local Labor Landscape” in the December 2021 issue of NACS Magazine for tips on building an effective employee value proposition and how to gain an edge when competing for candidates.