Jobless Rate Rose .1 Percent in August

The U.S. unemployment rate rose 0.1 percent in August, to 4.4 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Businesses claimed to create 165,000 new jobs last month, while governments shed 9,000, a separate survey showed.

Some 151,000 more people joined the jobless rolls, raising the number of unemployed to 7.132 million, and the number of people not in the labor force rose by another 128,000 to 94.79 million.

“The unemployment rate rose slightly, and not because more workers were looking for work: Labor force participation held steady, while the employment-to-population ratio fell slightly,” Economic Policy Institute analyst Elise Gould said.

“Nominal wages, meanwhile, grew 2.5 percent over the last 12 months -- where they have been for the last several months. This level of wage growth is below the rate of 3.5-4 percent we would see in a healthier economy.”

Factories added 36,000 jobs in August, rising to 12.48 million. The big gainers were in cars (+13,700 jobs), food plants (+6,600) and fabricated metals, such as steel (+5,200). Some 596,000 factory workers (3.9 percent) were jobless.

Construction added 28,000 jobs, rising to 6.92 million. More than half of the gains (+15,200) were at specialty trade contractors. That still left 448,000 jobless construction workers (4.7 percent), but building trades leaders say the official jobless numbers understate unemployment, since a worker who toils for one day in the BLS survey week is counted as on the job for the whole month.

As usual, two low-paying job categories in the service sector led the way in job creation: Health care (+20,200 jobs) and bars and restaurants (+9,200). Associations and membership groups added 12,300 jobs. Overall, service firms claimed to create 95,000 jobs in August.  The government job losses were at the state and local levels.

BLS said Hurricane Harvey did not affect the jobless numbers, as it hit at the end of August and the agency conducts its surveys in the first week. Harvey’s impact, it explained, will show up in the September numbers.