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August job gains come in at 130,000, below expectations

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy added 130,000 jobs in August — less than the 150,000 economists expected — while the unemployment rate held at 3.7%, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Why it matters: The slowdown could be the first sign that companies may be beginning to pull back on hiring, after the economic uncertainty from the U.S.-China trade war that's put a dent in business spending.

The details: The report also said hiring in prior months was less impressive than previously thought.

  • June's job gains were 178,000 rather than 193,000, according to the revised numbers, while July added 5,000 fewer jobs than initially estimated.
  • August's job gains were boosted by government hiring, "largely reflecting the hiring of temporary workers for the 2020 Census," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' release.

Between the lines: In the face of other deteriorating economic indicators, the labor market has continued to flex its strength.

  • But the Federal Reserve has been watching the U.S.-China trade war and the uncertainty that's rattled businesses across the country. Despite the solid labor market at the time, the Fed cut interest rates at its last policy meeting, and it's expected to further trim rates later this month.
  • Minutes before the release of the jobs report, President Trump continued his attack on the Fed, tweeting, in part: "...the Fed should lower rates. They were WAY too early to raise, and Way too late to cut - and big dose quantitative tightening didn’t exactly help either. Where did I find this guy Jerome? Oh well, you can’t win them all!"

The bottom line: August marks the 107th straight month of job growth — continuing its impressive stretch — and the job gains last month came in above the amount necessary to keep up with population growth.

  • Yes, but: The pace of hiring is slowing. This year, job growth has averaged 158,000 per month vs. last year's average monthly gain of 223,000.

This post has been updated with more details from the report.