The News About Jobs Remains Relentlessly Good, If Not Quite Fantastic or Exciting

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Today the government said that the recovery kept chugging along in a monthly jobs report as dry and bland as toast, almost entirely devoid of change or surprise. The unemployment rate ticked up a smidge to 6.2 percent. Employers kept hiring at roughly the same-old, same-old decent-enough pace, adding about 209,000 new positions in July.

Here’s a little condensation of the headline numbers from the household survey.

Both the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons changed little in July. The unemployment rates for adult men, teenagers, whites, and Hispanics showed little or no change in July. The jobless rate for Asians was 4.5 percent, little changed from a year earlier. The number of long-term unemployed was essentially unchanged at 3.2 million in July. The civilian labor force participation rate, at 62.9 percent, changed little in July. The participation rate has been essentially unchanged since April. The employment-population ratio, at 59.0 percent, was unchanged over the month. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 7.5 million, was unchanged in July.

And here’s some trenchant commentary from the economist Justin Wolfers.

Of course, “unchanged” is not a bad thing. You don’t go to government statisticians to get your jollies. Thrills are overrated when it comes to economic data.

This report underscores that the recovery is just fine: This is the first time we’ve had six consecutive months of monthly jobs growth above 200,000 since the summer of 1997, after all. And there is plenty of reason to think the economy will keep doing just fine. A few other data reports have surprised to the upside. The economy rebounded strongly from the crummy winter. Hiring managers and the business executives who make purchasing orders see more of the same on the horizon.

That said, we are starting to see the emergence of a big, dark cloud on the horizon: the potential overvaluation of the stock market. There’s increasing chatter that equities are overdue for a major correction, and that prices have gotten too far out of line with earnings prospects. The more folks talk about it, the more skittish investors might become, leading all that prophetic chatter to become self-fulfilling. (For the clearest articulation of this concern about stocks, read Henry Blodget at Business Insider.)

If and when stocks do have a sharp correction, it could dampen investment and consumer spending for some time — portending some more exciting but much worse monthly reports than this one.