PayRolls Growth Slowed in July As Unemployment Rate Rose
by Brian Blackstone
    U.S. employemnt growth slowed and the jobless rate ticked up last month as job losses in manufacturing, construction and government offset healthy gains in many services industries, suggesting that the economy started the third quarter on a softer note after robust growth in the second quarter.
    Wage gains remained largely contained, suggesting that labor markets pose less of an inflation risk. However, while Friday's data suggest more balance between growth and inflation risks, Federal Reserve policymakers will likely want to see more evidence before dropping their anti-inflation bias.
    Nonfarm payrolls increased just 92,000 in July, down from 126,000 in June and 188,000 in May, the Labor Department said Friday. Previous reports showed job growth of 132,000 in June and 190,000 in May. Monthly job growth has averaged 136,000 so far this year.
    The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 4.6%.
    Average hourly earnings increased $0.06, or 0.3%, to $17.45. That was up 3.9% from a year earlier, suggesting tight labor markets still aren't putting much pressure on labor costs -- further confirmation that the noninflationary unemployment rate is much lower than once thought.
    The July payroll gain was came short of Wall Street expectations of a 130,000 rise, though many economists had braced for a lower number following a weak report Wednesday from Automatic Data Processing and Macroeconomic Advisers that attempts to track the government figure. Forecasters had expected a 4.5% nuemployment rate and 0.3% rise in hourly wages.
    U.S. gross domestic product advenced just 0.6% in the first quarter but recovered to a 3.4% pace last quarter. A key questiong heading into the second half of 2007 is which quarter, the first or second, better reflects the economy's underlying state.
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