There was an unsettling pattern for much of the spring and early summer when it came to monthly job totals. Expectations were relatively high, which made the disappointing figures in April, May, and June that much more brutal.
This month, we saw the opposite: expectations were generally pessimistic, making this morning's good news that much more of a relief.
The new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added 163,000 jobs in July, more than double the figures from the previous three months, and nearly double the predictions from economists going into this morning. The unemployment rate inched higher, from 8.2% to 8.3%, but as we've discussed many times, the figure can be misleading -- the rate sometimes goes up when more people reenter the job market.
As is nearly always the case, there was a gap in the public vs. private sectors -- American businesses added 172,000 jobs last month, while the government shed 9,000 jobs. In terms of revisions, May's totals were revised up a little, while June's totals were down a little.
It's worth emphasizing that 163,000 new jobs in a month is not evidence of a strong, robust recovery, but given the severity of the Great Recession, the figures are relative -- today's report is good news because it's evidence of real progress. July's totals are the best we've seen since February, and reverse the deeply disappointing trend of the last few months.
For context, note that so far in 2012, the economy has created over 1.12 million private-sector jobs, which is underwhelming, but is already better than five of the eight years of the Bush/Cheney era.
Above you'll find the chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction -- red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.
Update: Here's another chart, this one showing monthly job losses/gains in just the private sector since the start of the Great Recession.