U.S. adds 156K jobs; more seek­ing work

Un­em­ploy­ment rate in­creases slightly to 5%

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Christo­pher S. Rugaber

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. em­ploy­ers added a de­cent 156,000 jobs in Septem­ber, even while an in­flux of job seek­ers lifted the un­em­ploy­ment rate slightly to 5 per­cent. The rise in peo­ple seek­ing work is an en­cour­ag­ing sign that Amer­i­cans are more op­ti­mistic about their prospects.

The job gain last month, though mod­est, sug­gested that the U.S. econ­omy re­mains steady if not par­tic­u­larly strong. Wages also rose and are now in­creas­ing at a health­ier pace than they were ear­lier in the eco­nomic re­cov­ery — a trend that may be draw­ing more peo­ple into the job mar­ket to look for work.

For much of the re­cov­ery, the pro­por­tion of Ameri- Stocks edged up early af­ter Fri­day’s jobs re­port, but the mar­ket quickly dropped later. cans who ei­ther had a job or were look­ing for one had been de­clin­ing as an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion led to many re­tire­ments. Many of the un­em­ployed also grew dis­cour­aged about their pro- spects. Oth­ers stayed in school or re­mained at home car­ing for rel­a­tives.

Yet in the past year, the pro­por­tion of adults ei­ther work­ing or look­ing for work has risen from a 40-year low of 62.4 per­cent to 62.9 per­cent. That is still far be­low pre-re­ces­sion lev­els. But the pro­por­tion has in­creased even while many peo­ple in the vast baby boom gen­er­a­tion have been re­tir­ing.

So far this year, job growth has av­er­aged 178,000 a month, down from last year’s pace of 229,000. Still, hir­ing even at this year’s level is enough to lower the un­em­ploy­ment rate over time. And econ­o­mists have been ex­pect­ing the pace of job growth to slow as the sup­ply of un­em­ployed work­ers de­clines.

The Septem­ber hir­ing fig­ures will prob­a­bly keep the Fed­eral Re­serve on track to raise the short-term in­ter­est rate it con­trols by De­cem­ber, econ­o­mists said. Af­ter seven years of pin­ning that rate at a record low near zero to try to spur more bor­row­ing and spend­ing, the Fed raised its rate mod­estly in De­cem­ber. It has not acted since.

“The Septem­ber pay­roll re­port was a de­cent re­port that shows mod­er­ate job growth con­tin­ues,” Scott An­der­son, chief econ­o­mist at Bank of the West, wrote in a note. “In many ways, it was a ‘Goldilocks’ num­ber — not too hot or not too cold — for the mar­ket and the Fed.”

The stock mar­ket edged up in early trad­ing af­ter the jobs re­port. But it quickly turned lower and re­mained down for the rest of the day. Sup­pli­ers of ba­sic ma­te­ri­als and in­dus­trial com­pa­nies lost the most. Fri­day marked the mar­ket’s first weekly de­cline in a month.

Fri­day’s re­port comes a month be­fore vot­ers will de­cide a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in which the two ma­jor nom­i­nees have sketched out con­flict­ing views of the econ­omy’s health.

In Septem­ber, av­er­age hourly pay rose 6 cents to $25.79 and is now up 2.6 per­cent from a year ago. That’s bet­ter than the gains for most of the seven-year eco­nomic re­cov­ery, dur­ing which pay has in­creased at a tepid pace of about 2 per­cent a year. The pay in­creases, mod­est as they are, sug­gest that many em­ploy­ers are be­ing forced to pay more to at­tract work­ers.


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