Julie Su, nominee to serve as Secretary of Labor, arrives for her confirmation hearing in the Senate Health Education Labor & Pensions Committee on Thursday, April 20, 2023.
Bill Clark | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy saw the smallest jobs increase in July since December 2020, but Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su said the number reflects what experts increasingly believe see as a “soft landing” for the U.S. economy.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 187,000 last month, slightly below expectations, and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 3.5%.
“This is an example of what slow and steady growth looks like,” Su told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Friday.
“This is still less than 4% for the longest stretch since the 1960s,” Su said of the unemployment rate, which has remained low for the past 18 months.
She also touted the “very high labor force participation rate, especially among prime-age workers aged 25 to 54.”
The percentage of women in the labor force rose to 49.9% in July, a rate seen only twice before in public data: Dec. 2019, just before the pandemic, and 2009, when it rose as a result of the high number of men who lost jobs in the Great Recession.
Despite the encouraging numbers, Su said the government can still do a better job of supporting a smooth transition for women back to work in the post-Covid economy.
“I think that what it’s going to take to further increase labor force participation is going to be addressing some of the structural issues that keep workers out of the labor market,” said Su. Securing childcare that is affordable and reliable will be crucial, she added.