U.S. hiring slower but steady as employers add 155K jobs
WASHINGTON — U.S. businesses added a smaller but stillhealthy number of jobs last month, while the unemployment rate remained at a five-decade low and wages rose at a solid clip.
The figures, released Friday by the Labor Department, point to an economy that is still adding jobs at a steady rate after nearly 10 years of recovery. So far, employers are mostly shrugging off the financial market turmoil of the past two months and rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China.
U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in November, down from a more robust 237,000 in October. The unemployment rate remained 3.7 per cent, nearly a fivedecade low, for the third straight month. Average hourly pay rose 3.1 per cent from a year ago, matching the previous month’s figure, which was the best since 2009.
The economy is expanding robustly, with growth reaching 3.9 per cent at an annual rate over the summer and fall, the best sixmonth pace in four years. Still, ongoing interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, the Trump administration’s threats of higher tariffs on China, and weakening global growth have roiled financial markets and raised fears about the U.S. economy’s future.
Investors initially bid up stocks after the report’s release, but financial markets fell in mid-day trading. The Dow Jones dropped 375 points, or 1.5 per cent. That followed a small decline Thursday and an 800-point drop Tuesday.
November’s jobs figure could portend a slower expansion next year, economists said, as the stimulus from last year’s tax cuts wears off and higher borrowing costs weigh on home sales and business investment. But most analysts anticipate the economy will still grow.
“The economy continues to churn out new jobs and reflects the strong underlying business conditions that point to steady, albeit slower job growth and economic activity in 2019,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at consulting firm RSM. “This report strongly implies that a recession is not looming just over the horizon.”
The report is unlikely to dissuade the Federal Reserve from raising short-term interest rates at its meeting later this month, as expected, Brusuelas said. But it suggests the Fed may not hike rates next year as rapidly as many investors have feared.
The ongoing job gains are pushing down unemployment rates to historically low levels. The unemployment rate for men aged 20 and above fell last month to 3.3 per cent, the lowest in 18 years. And the rate for Americans with just high school diplomas dropped to 3.5 per cent, the lowest since December 2000. The African-American jobless rate declined to 5.9 per cent, matching May’s figure as the lowest on record.
It’s also become more challenging for businesses to find workers. Employers have posted seven million open jobs, outnumbering the ranks of the unemployed, which fell last month to just under six million.
Hiring in November was led by health-care firms, which added 40,100 jobs, and professional services such as accounting and engineering, which gained 32,000. Manufacturing firms hired 27,000 new staff, the most in seven months and a sign that trade tensions have yet to weaken factory hiring.