After more than two years of outsize employment growth following the biggest shock to the labor market on record, job creation most likely slowed markedly in June and will probably do so further in the second half of the year, forecasters say.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect the Labor Department’s monthly report on Friday to show that employers added 268,000 jobs in June — a figure that is significantly below the average of 545,000 additional jobs each month over the past year, and one that is only slightly above what was reported in April 2021, the slowest month for job growth since President Biden took office.
The U.S. economy has nearly regained the 22 million jobs that it lost in the initial stages of the pandemic in 2020, but every incremental move forward has become more difficult.
That’s the result of two forces: Fewer workers are available or willing to take open jobs, and demand is slowing as higher interest rates, imposed by the Federal Reserve to combat inflation, take their toll.
“The recovery phase from the pandemic is really over now, and we’re into an expansion,” said Bill Adams, the chief economist at Comerica Bank. “So that’s going to be constrained by the potential growth rate of the economy, the growth rate of the labor force — which has slowed a lot — and then by tighter fiscal and monetary policy.”
A smaller number may not be cause for concern. The number of people quitting their jobs remained at near-record highs in May, the Labor Department reported this week, in a sign that workers are still confident they can find other jobs. The 11.3 million openings cited in that report suggest they’re right.
But consumer spending, which fuels most American economic activity, has drifted lower in recent months as high prices for food and groceries have cut into disposable income and weakened demand for durable goods like cars and appliances. That is likely to start affecting manufacturing employment, which a closely watched industry survey this week showed was decelerating.
Small businesses are in a particularly dark mood, the National Federation of Independent Business reported last month in its long-running survey, although they are still citing the difficulty of finding qualified workers as a top concern.
Economists also expect the report on Friday to show that wages didn’t rise as much in June as in previous months, which would put the average American worker even further behind rising prices and prompt a tighter hold on wallets.