Jobs Report for August: What to Watch For

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“In some occupations — typically those with low skill requirements and relatively pleasant working conditions — there is a huge oversupply of candidates,” Ms. Pollak said.

Over the past year on ZipRecruiter, for example, the roughly 68,500 postings for administrative assistants attracted more than 8.1 million applications, or 118 responses on average for every job. But the 136,000 jobs listed for warehouse workers got nearly 9.3 million applicants, or just 68 responses per job.

Look for which sectors are growing the most. The manufacturing and nonmanufacturing activity measures released by the Institute for Supply Management this week were both strong, suggesting across-the-board growth.

Shifting from part time to full time

One measure of the labor market’s tightness is the rate of underemployment — part-time workers who would prefer to work full time but haven’t been able to find such a job. Those people do not show up in the most widely cited unemployment rate, but are in a broader measure that the Labor Department publishes, which also includes potential workers too discouraged to look for a job.

“In the last five months, the economy converted about 600,000 workers from part time to full time,” said Michael Gapen, chief United States economist at Barclays. That brought the rate down to 7.5 percent in July, reaching levels last seen in the early 2000s. A further reduction would provide more solid evidence of how much slack is left in the labor market.

The quirks of August

August is a quirky month. There were more working days (23) last month than in July or September. For salaried workers, the same steady pay over a greater number of working days will register as a lower hourly wage.

In recent years, August has also proved tough to measure accurately at first. Over the last five years, every first estimate of job growth in August was subsequently revised upward — by 38,000 jobs on average, according to High Frequency Economics.

And as always, the Labor Department’s report provides only a temporary and incomplete glimpse of the economy. August’s estimates will be revised twice in the coming months.

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