More Good News on U.S. Employment


Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1.8 million in July, and the unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. These improvements in the labor market reflected the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In July, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, government, retail trade, professional and business services, other services, and health care.

This is the opening paragraph of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ news release today on the jobs numbers for July.

This is not nearly as good as the June numbers, which were very good. Nevertheless, any month in which the number of people employed rises by more than half a percent is a very good month. (Household data show that 142.2 million people were employed in June and that that had risen by 1.35 million in July, an increase of 0.9%.)

Also heartening for hospitality workers, who have taken the brunt of the job losses, is that their employment increased considerably. Here’s the relevant paragraph of the press release:

Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 592,000, accounting for about one-third of the gain in total nonfarm employment in July. Employment in food services and drinking places rose by 502,000, following gains of 2.9 million in May and June combined. Despite the gains over the last 3 months, employment in food services and drinking places is down by 2.6 million since February. Over the month, employment also rose in amusements, gambling, and recreation (+100,000).

I have pointed out how much better the numbers would be if a bipartisan majority in Congress had not, in March, legislated a $600 per week unemployment benefit on top of normal state benefits. That benefit expired last Friday. If Congress does not renew that benefit, I expect an even bigger increase in August, which would be reported on September 4. I also expect, however, that Congress will renew a modified version of this benefit.

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US Government Punishing Americans Again

Many people must be puzzled. What’s the point of international sanctions? Why should the Chinese owners of TikTok or WeChat obey sanctions imposed by the US government? Chinese nationals are not bound to obey American laws and decrees. Here’s the thing: US government’s sanctions are obeyed because they order AMERICANS to stop dealing with the foreign entities officially targeted. The sanctions are perhaps not officially directed towards Americans but it is only because they indirectly target them that they are obeyed; if anybody is prosecuted and goes to jail, it will be Americans.

I explained that in a previous post: “American Sanctions: Why Foreigners Obey,” Econlog, October 1, 2019). The cases of TkiTok and WeChat provide as clear a confirmation as possible. The Wall Street Journal (“Trump Executive Orders Target TikTok, WeChat Apps,” August 7, 2020) reports:

The orders bar people in the U.S. or subject to U.S. jurisdiction from transactions with the China-based owners of the apps, effective 45 days from Thursday. That raises the possibility that U.S. citizens would be prevented from downloading the apps in the Apple or Google app stores.

TikToc is reported to have more than 37,000,000 American users, mainly young people.

Sanction decrees are a bit like tariffs: they punish the nationals of the government that imposes them.

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