August 8, 2022

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Good News on Jobs May Mean Bad News Later as Hiring Spree Defies Fed

2 min read

America’s job market is remarkably strong, a report on Friday made clear, with unemployment at the lowest rate in half a century, wages rising fast and companies hiring at a breakneck pace.

But the good news now could become a problem for President Biden later.

Mr. Biden and his aides pointed to the hiring spree as evidence that the United States is not in a recession and celebrated the report, which showed that employers added 528,000 jobs in July and that pay picked up by 5.2 percent from a year earlier. But the still-blistering pace of hiring and wage growth means the Federal Reserve may need to act more decisively to restrain the economy as it seeks to wrestle inflation under control.

Fed officials have been waiting for signs that the economy, and particularly the job market, is slowing. They hope that employers’ voracious need for workers will come into balance with the supply of available applicants, because that would take pressure off wages, in turn paving the way for businesses like restaurants, hotels and retailers to temper their price increases.

The moderation has remained elusive, and that could keep central bankers raising interest rates rapidly in an effort to cool down the economy and restrain the fastest inflation in four decades. As the Fed adjusts policy aggressively, it could increase the risk that the economy tips into a recession, instead of slowing gently into the so-called soft landing that central bankers have been trying to engineer.

“We’re very unlikely to be falling into a recession in the near term,” said Michael Gapen, head of U.S. economics research at Bank of America. “But I’d also say that numbers like this raise the risk of a sharper landing farther down the road.”

Interest rates are a blunt tool, and historically, big Fed adjustments have often set off recessions. Stock prices fell after Friday’s release, a sign that investors are worried that the new figures increased the odds of a bad economic outcome down the…

Jeanna Smialek and Jim Tankersley

2022-08-05 17:33:41

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