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US Unemployment Edges Upward to 4.4 Percent

  • Jim Randle

FILE - In this May 19, 2017, photo, job seekers work on their resumes during the Opportunity Fair and Forum employment event in Dallas.

The U.S. unemployment rate rose slightly in August and the net gain in jobs was lower than economists predicted.

Friday's report from the Labor Department says the jobless rate rose one — tenth of one percent to 4.4 percent. While that is an increase, it is still close to a 16 — year low.

Across the economy, there was a net gain of 156,000 jobs — tens of thousands fewer than the prior month.

Wages continued to grow at a 2.5 percent annual rate. PNC Bank chief economist Gus Faucher says "soft" wage growth is a persistent problem, but predicts a tight labor market may soon prompt employers to offer higher pay.

Economic analyst Mark Hamrick of Bankrate.com says the lack of wage growth when unemployment is low is causing "a lot of head — scratching" ((is very puzzling)) for economists. He says part of the problem is that weak growth in productivity is hurting wage growth.Hamrick adds that a flood of retirements of the baby boomer generation means younger workers, who tend to have lower wages, are taking over.

Government economists who monitor unemployment say Hurricane Harvey had "no discernable effect" on these jobless figures because the data was collected before the storm struck. Faucher says the next jobless report may show substantially weaker growth because of Harvey, but that the impact will be temporary as people are hired for reconstruction efforts.

The report says 7.1 million Americans are out of work, and another 5.3 million who want full — time jobs stuck with part — time work. There were job gains in manufacturing, construction, professional services, and health care.

A separate survey by the University of Michigan shows more than half of consumers say their personal financial situation has improved over the past few months. That is the best showing in about 17 years. Economists watch consumer attitudes closely because consumers who feel financially secure are more likely to make major purchases like cars or homes. Consumer demand drives most U.S. economic activity.

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