US job growth rebounds as economy adds 224,000 jobs in June

US job growth rebounded strongly in June, but moderate wage gains and mounting evidence that the economy was slowing sharply could still encourage the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates this month.

The labor department’s closely watched employment report on Friday suggested May’s sharp slowdown in hiring was probably a fluke.

Lack of concrete progress in resolving an acrimonious trade war between the United States and China, however, means the bar could be very high for the Federal Reserve not to lower borrowing costs at its policy meeting on 30 and 31 July.

The US central bank last month signaled it could ease monetary policy as early as this month citing low inflation as well as growing risks to the economy from an escalation in trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Donald Trump and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, last week agreed to a trade truce and a return to talks. Trump has said he is in “no hurry” to make a deal and on Wednesday accused China and Europe of “playing big currency manipulation game and pumping money into their system in order to compete with USA”.

The trade fight has undercut business confidence, leading to a downturn in equipment spending and manufacturing.

Non-farm payrolls increased by 224,000 jobs last month, the most in five months, the government said. The economy created 11,000 fewer jobs in April and May than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls rising to 160,000 jobs in June.

Job growth averaged 172,000 per month in the first half. Hiring has cooled from an average of 223,000 jobs per month in 2018. The pace, however, remains well above the roughly 100,000 needed to keep up with growth in the working-age population.

The economy, which has expanded a record 10 years, has shifted into lower gear as the stimulus from last year’s massive tax cuts and more government spending fizzles. The Atlanta Fed is forecasting gross domestic product rising at a 1.3% annualized rate in the April-June quarter. The economy grew at a 3.1% pace in the first quarter.

The trend in wage growth has slowed from late last year when wages were rising at their fastest rate in a decade, pointing to moderate inflation. Average hourly earnings rose six cents or 0.2% after gaining 0.3% in May. That kept the annual increase in wages at 3.1% for a second straight month.

The unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.7% as people entered the labor market. Hiring picked up nearly across all sectors in June, though retail payrolls contracted for a fifth straight month.

Manufacturing payrolls increased by 17,000 jobs after rising by 3,000 in May.

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