The US labor market is putting on an unprecedented show of strength. There have now been 92 consecutive months of gains in US payrolls, the longest continuous stretch since records began. Since late 2010, the US economy has added 18.3 million jobs over that period.
So far, so good. Are you worried yet?
No other stretch of job growth has been this long or added so many jobs. (The rise between 1940 and 1943 was bigger in relative percentage terms, though changes in population are a factor when comparing the two periods.) That doesn’t mean that a downturn is around the corner, but this cycle is certainly closer to the end than the beginning. The Federal Reserve is hiking interest rates—another is expected this month—as the economy no longer needs stimulus, but rather brakes to make sure it doesn’t run dangerously fast. In May, employers added 223,000 jobs, beating expectations, and the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 18 years.
Though the current stretch is the longest on record, there is a period in the 1980s that rivals it in strength. A one-month decline in payrolls in June 1986 broke what would have otherwise been an 82-month run of job gains between 1983 and 1990. Over that time, absent the one-month blip, the US economy added a whopping 19.7 million jobs.