(Bloomberg) -- Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said that he’s still concerned about inflation picking up after wage growth was more than expected in July.
His comments on Bloomberg Television’s Wall Street Week with David Westin came after the US payrolls report Friday showed job gains slowed to 187,000 in July and the prior two months were revised down. At the same time, wages rose more than expected from the prior year, up 4.4%.
The Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates at a rapid clip over the past year to quell inflation. While Summers said that the path to a soft landing is more likely than before the jobs data, price pressures remain a threat.
Other economists also remained cautious.
“The slowdown in job growth is significant but average hourly earnings and the low unemployment rate suggest the job market is still tight,” said Kathy Jones, Charles Schwab’s chief fixed income strategist. “The Fed may pass in September, but that depends on inflation data. I think another rate hike is on the table.”
And Michael Skordeles, head of US economics for Truist Financial Corp., said “it’s too early to say we’re done and this is the end of the end of the hiking cycle. They do have a ways to go.”
At the same time, there’s a “good amount of data” before Fed policymakers have to decide in September, he said.
Randall Kroszner, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a former Fed governor, said that wage growth should remain in focus. Even Fed doves will need to be cautious, he said. “There’s enough here for them to say we have to be vigilant.”
There were signs of cracks in the jobs report, though, including a drop in temporary service help and sectors that were previous engines of growth, such as manufacturing and transportation. Hours worked also declined, signaling less demand from employers.
That’s a sign that Fed policy is working. Fed officials “have been saying they’ve wanted to get the short term rate up to a restrictive level and I think it’s there. I don’t think they have to do any more” hikes, said Edward Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research Inc.
Bloomberg Economics analysts said the surprisingly low nonfarm payrolls data reinforce that cracks are emerging in the labor market. “All in all, the report bolsters the case for the Fed to keep rates on hold in September,” economists Anna Wong and Stuart Paul wrote in a report. They highlighted that while headline wages increased, average weekly earnings grew at a more subdued 0.1% monthly pace when factoring in the drop in average hours worked.
Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconmics said we’re seeing “softish payroll numbers” that show a clear cooling in the labor market. “The bottom line here is that this report is not strong enough to change Fed doves’ minds, and not weak enough to change any Fed hawks’ minds.”
A cooling was to be expected, said Cecilia Rouse, former chair of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers who stepped down to return to Princeton University this year.
“That’s what we want to see. That is what the Federal Reserve is looking for,” she said. Still, the labor market remains “remarkably resilient.” “We fundamentally have a strong labor market with some signs that there’s some cooling as we would hope to see.”
--With assistance from Steve Matthews and Molly Smith.
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