Less than a week ago, the U.S. Labor Department announced that the nation added 288,000 jobs in June – that was far better than the 215,000 jobs economists had predicted. The nation’s unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent last month, its lowest level since September 2008 when investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, setting off the full-blown global financial crisis.
It was a good report, even when one dives behind the headline numbers. Unemployment in June declined not because people left the workforce, but because more people in fact had jobs. April and May numbers were revised upward. According to writer Neil Irwin, perhaps the best news regarded worker pay. The index of weekly payrolls for private sector workers rose 0.4 percent for the month, reflecting both more hours worked and higher hourly pay.
These numbers have led many economists to conclude that the economy is finally bursting out of its shell. But there have been other periods over the last five years suggesting that the economy looked ready to accelerate, only to have it slow back down again. As an example, the pace of job growth looked similar during the early months of 2012 – but the rest of the year simply wasn’t as good.