The figures are clear -- the unemployment rate went down instead of up last month, but economists both in and out of government are wondering precisely why the news was good. July's unemployment rate sank to 7 percent, the lowest since April 1980, despite expectations it would rise to reflect the well-documented slowdown in the economy. The July decrease of 0.3 percent followed an identical June decrease.
"I don't read too much into it, frankly," said Murray Weidenbaum, President Reagan's top economist. The figures seemed to contradict the forecast of both Mr. Weidenbaum and the administration that unemployment will have averaged 7.7 percent by the end of the year.