The U.S. economy added a disappointing 130,000 jobs in August, the Labor Department said Friday, heightening fears that President Trump’s trade war is starting to bite.
The jobs report has taken on greater significance as concerns grow that the U.S. economy has entered a rough patch. Economists had predicted 160,000 job gains in August, but anemic hiring in manufacturing, mining, truck driving and retail — industries that are most directly affected by the trade war — helped drag employment gains down this summer.
The slowdown in hiring comes as broader economic growth has cooled this year. The manufacturing sector is in a recession, and businesses have stopped spending, largely as a result of headwinds from abroad and Trump’s trade battles. But the U.S. economy is driven primarily by consumer spending, and so far, that remains strong as workers continue to get pay raises and see “we’re hiring” signs in front of many businesses.
The unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent in August, the lowest in nearly half a century, and business leaders complain frequently that they are struggling to find enough workers.
Trump has pinned his reelection on a strong economy in 2020. White House officials have moved aggressively in recent days to highlight good economic news and say the U.S.-China trade talks are going well, despite a lack of substantive progress. Despite the White House’s efforts to tout good news, many business executives remain on edge. Hiring in August was boosted by the federal government adding part-time workers for the 2020 U.S. Census. Without the addition of those temporary jobs, the new data reveal private sector companies added 96,000 jobs, the weakest in many months.