U.S. worker productivity picked up modestly in the second quarter but showed little sign of breaking out of the sluggish trend that has prevailed for more than a decade, holding back economic growth and living standards. The lethargic pace of productivity growth seen in recent years could have a critical effect on the future trajectory of wages, prices, overall economic output and government budget balances. . . . “If labor productivity grows an average of 2% per year, average living standards for our children’s generation will be twice what we experienced,” Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said in a July speech. “If labor productivity grows an average of 1% per year, the difference is dramatic: Living standards will take two generations to double.”
A run-up in stocks helped deliver a banner year for America’s public pensions. But the gains won’t be nearly enough to ensure all state and local retirees receive their promised future benefits. Large U.S. systems that oversee retirement funds for police, firefighters, teachers and other public workers earned median returns of 12.4% in the fiscal year ended June 30, according to Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service. That is their best annual result since 2014. Yet many of these public pensions remain severely underfunded despite the recent gains, meaning they don’t have enough assets on hand to fulfill all promises made to their workers. Estimates of their collective shortfall vary from $1.6 trillion to $4 trillion.
Employers across the U.S. had a record 6.2 million job openings posted at the end of June, a sign that employers are hungry for new workers. The number of job openings climbed by 417,000 in June for private employers and by 44,000 for government postings, which include state and local government, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as Jolts.
U.S. employers hired at a healthy rate in July and the unemployment rate fell to match a 16-year-low, a show of lasting vitality for the labor market.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by a seasonally adjusted 209,000 in July from the prior month, the Labor Department said. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3% from 4.4% the prior month as more people joined the workforce. The July unemployment rate matched May's reading as the lowest mark since 2001.
The U.S. trade gap narrowed sharply in June as a strengthening global economy pushes up demand for American exports overseas.
The trade deficit with other nations contracted 5.9% from a month earlier to $43.64 billion, the Commerce Department said Friday. The deficit fell because exports rose 1.2% while imports fell 0.2%. ...