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Economists expect no change in unemployment rate in July Jobs report

Scott Olson

Tomorrow is Jobs Day. The consensus of economic forecasters is that the economy will gain 233,000 jobs while the unemployment rate stays put at 6.1 percent.

In the context of a fifth consecutive month of payroll growth over 200,000 a steady unemployment rate would actually be better news than a falling one since a steady rate would indicate that the labor force is expanding in response to benign economic conditions and the economy is not running out of room to grow.

The context for the report is a run of good news from other economic indicators. Second quarter GDP saw a strong rebound from a bad first quarter, and there are indications that employers are even giving out wage increases. At the same time, inflation continues to be low with the particular index the Fed likes to watch still below 2 percent.

Under the circumstances, the kind of jobs numbers the forecasting consensus is calling for would be a sign of an economy that's on track to deliver rising living standards and isn't in much need of recalibration either way from policymakers.

Of course a disappointingly low number would be disappointing. But the more interesting question at this point is how Janet Yellen might react to a surprisingly good number. Would the Fed just celebrate? Or do central bankers have such an itchy trigger finger about inflation that a strong jobs report could lead to tighter money even in the absence of any real sign of fast-rising prices?