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Tipsheet

Unemployment Rate Rises in August as Wages Fail to Keep Up With Inflation

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The U.S. economy added 315,000 jobs, slightly beating expectations in August while the unemployment rate jumped up to 3.7 percent as the number of unemployed Americans grew by 344,000 to a total of six million.

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August's data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows job growth slowing from July — when 528,000 new jobs were reported — and a higher unemployment rate than the last report's 3.5 percent.  

A survey of economists predicted that 300K new jobs would be added in August and the unemployment rate would stay at 3.5 percent. 

When it comes to wage growth, American workers are still having their earnings outstripped by the runaway and lasting inflation that's been caused by the Biden administration and Democrats' tax-and-spend agenda that sent price increases to their four-decade highs in the first two years of Biden's tenure in the Oval Office. 

In August, workers' wages increased 0.3 percent, reaching 5.2 percent year-over-year — yet the latest read of the Consumer Price Index showed 8.5 percent inflation. That means Americans' real wages are still down 3.3 percent in the last 12 months. 

A new read on inflation for August will be released on September 13, showing whether the Fed's interest rate hikes have kicked in to force an economic slowdown. 

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Despite President Biden's promise to "build back better," the latest update from the Department of Labor showed that the workforce has still not fully rebounded to its pre-COVID levels. The labor force participation rate in August was 62.4 percent, still one percent below its February 2020 mark. 

And, while the total jobs is back above pre-COVID levels, there are several sectors that haven't fully rebounded yet. Health care employment, for example, is still down 37,000 jobs from its February 2020 level. Meanwhile, the leisure and hospitality sector has 1.2 million fewer jobs in August compared to pre-COVID employment. 

What's more, August's report shows that 1.9 million Americans were still unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic Biden promised to "shut down" and declared "independence" from in July 2021. 

The latest jobs report comes on the heels of Fed chairman Jerome Powell's speech in Jackson Hole in which he said economic realities would require "using our tools forcefully to bring demand and supply into better balance" which will "bring some pain to households and businesses."

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Under that Federal Reserve threat of further extreme measures to get inflation back to its two percent target, companies have been announcing layoffs. Walmart cut some 200 corporate employees recently, Ford Motor Company is casting off thousands of its gas vehicle division employees, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond is scrambling to save itself from bankruptcy by laying off 20 percent of its corporate staff. 

Meanwhile 3M said it would take "decisive actions" and be "adjusting" its workforce — read: laying off employees — in response to a slowing economy, a move that a recent PwC survey found that 50 percent of American companies are planning in the coming weeks and months. 

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