US economy adds 228,000 jobs in November: Unemployment at 4.1%


The US economy added 228,000 jobs in November, above the expectation of 195,000 jobs added. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1%.

This is the 86th consecutive month employers added to payrolls.

Friday’s report showed the employers added jobs in most major categories, including construction, manufacturing, retail and health care.

The manufacturing segment added 31,000 jobs last month, with the biggest additions coming from the machinery and fabricated metal products. Since a recent low in November 2016, manufacturing employment has increased by 189,000.

Health care added 30,000 jobs last month. Some 25,000 positions were created in the ambulatory health care services industry, which includes offices of physicians and outpatient care centers.

Monthly employment growth in health care has averaged 24,000 thus far in 2017, compared with an average increase of 32,000 per month in 2016.

Leisure and hospitality, the sector most impacted by recent hurricanes, grew by 14,000 jobs last month, a somewhat weaker gain compared to average monthly growth this year before hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck the southern U.S. in late summer.

Retail jobs grew by 18,700 last month, with 6,800 positions created in so-called general merchandise stores. Clothing and accessories stores saw a 5,600 decline.

All levels of government added 7,000 jobs to payrolls last month.

Workforce participation was steady at 62.7% in November.

The labor-force participation rate bottomed out in September 2015, after a 15-year decline, and has stabilized over the last couple of years. An aging population could keep labor force participation from rising much more.

A broad measure of unemployment and underemployment known as the U-6, which includes people stuck in part-time jobs and others, ticked up to 8% in November.

Though the November rate is up from October's decade-low reading of 7.9%, it's still well below summer levels of 8.6%. This broader unemployment measure has fallen this year in tandem with the narrower unemployment rate known as the U-3.

U.S. wage growth may continue to disappoint, but the metric is at least rising faster than inflation, according to Marc Chandler, an analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman.

Average hourly earnings rose 2.5% in November from a year earlier. That compares to a 2% increase in October's consumer-price index. Mr. Chandler says this divergence means consumers are taking home more of their pay check and "suggests that the consumer sector may be in okay shape."

"Even with wage growth low, as long as it stays above inflation, that means real earnings are positive," said Mr. Chandler. "This is a sign that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal."

This jobs report isn't likely to stand in the way of the Fed's plan to lift rates next week.

U.S. hiring continued at a healthy clip in November while wage growth remained subdued. In other words, this jobs report is more of the same, investors and economists say. With the Fed already signaling a rate increase next year, nothing in the jobs report is likely to make Fed officials second-guess that move.

"Unless the truly unexpected occurs in the coming days, the Federal Open Market Committee will certainly raise interest rates and signal further rate hikes in the new year," said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, in e-mailed comments.

The fed funds futures market, where traders bet on the path of policy, is in agreement. There's still a 100% chance of at least one rate increase before the year is out, according to CME Group. That's the same as before the report.

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