U.S. employers added 528,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department said on Friday, again outstripping expectations for a labor market that is still rebounding from the pandemic but that has come under increasing pressure from inflation as well as from escalating interest rates meant to rein in prices.
The impressive performance — which brings the total employment back to its level of February 2020, just before the pandemic lockdowns — indicates that a slowdown in some industries has not been enough to drag down overall hiring. And it provides new evidence that the United States has not entered a recession.
But most forecasters expect that momentum to slow markedly later in the year, as companies cut payrolls to match lower demand.
“At this stage, things are OK,” said James Knightley, the chief international economist at the bank ING. “Say, December or the early part of next year, that’s where we could see much softer numbers.”
The unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, down from 3.6 percent in June, matching its 50-year low on the eve of the pandemic.
Last week, the government reported that the nation’s gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic output, had contracted for the second consecutive quarter when adjusted for inflation. The data showed a sharp decline in home building, a slackening of business investment and a sluggish rise in consumer spending.
Those trends are bound to affect the labor market overall, even if not uniformly or immediately.
Amy Glaser, a senior vice president at the global staffing agency Adecco, said her firm was still struggling to fill hourly jobs, especially in retail and logistics. Employers may not have made those positions attractive enough, and, increasingly, may do without them.
“I think we do have a gap in the jobs that are available and the desire to do those jobs,” Ms. Glaser said. “We know there are tens of thousands of warehouse jobs out there, but standing on your feet for 10 hours a day isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.”