The U.S. economy added 163,000 jobs in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, exceeding expectations, and bucking a months-long trend of disappointing growth.
The growth remains too sluggish to rapidly reduce the unemployment rate, which ticked up from 8.2 to 8.3 percent. Experts say that the economy needs to be adding north of 200,000 non-farm payrolls each month in order to recover rapidly — a figure we haven’t seen since the winter.
Despite the uptick there remains significant weakness in the economy. The gains came despite the loss of 9,000 public sector jobs, indicating that the contraction of the public sector remains a drag on growth.
Broadly, the report contains mixed news about the overall state of the economy, and thus portends mixed political news for President Obama. It should soften fears that the economy might actually be contracting, but suggests it’s only growing rapidly enough to keep pace with population growth, leaving large numbers of Americans unemployed.
The higher-than-expected top line figure could also provide an unmotivated Federal Reserve a reason not to take further steps to increase employment.
Conversely, the addition of 25,000 manufacturing jobs will bolster Obama’s claims to have buoyed the sector.
Despite continued slack in the labor market slack, members of Congress left Washington on Thursday for a one month recess, and continue to be at odds over how to address high unemployment.
As has become custom Democrats heralded continued, if slow, private sector job growth, while Republicans draped the high unemployment rate around Obama’s neck.
“Today’s increase in the unemployment rate is a hammer blow to struggling middle-class families,” said GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “We’ve now gone 42 consecutive months with the unemployment rate above eight percent. Middle class Americans deserve better, and I believe America can do better.”
BLS revised its May and June figures slightly. In May, BLS now finds that the economy added 87,000 jobs — up from 77,000. But in June, it added only 64,000 — down from an already anemic 80,000.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.