Wages jump as em­ploy­ers add 250,000 po­si­tions

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - By Christo­pher Rugaber

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. busi­nesses ramped up hir­ing in Oc­to­ber, and wages rose by the largest yearover-year amount in nearly a decade, a com­bi­na­tion that is pulling a ris­ing share of Amer­i­cans into the job mar­ket.

In the fi­nal ma­jor eco­nomic re­port be­fore Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions, the gov­ern­ment said Fri­day thatU.S. em­ploy­ers added a ro­bust 250,000 jobs in Oc­to­ber. The un­em­ploy­ment rate stayed at a five-decade lowof 3.7 per­cent.

Healthy eco­nomic growth is spurring em­ploy­ers to hire at a rapid pace that shows no sign of flag­ging even with the econ­omy in its 10th year of ex­pan­sion. With the sup­ply of un­em­ployed dwin­dling, com­pa­nies ap­pear to be put­ting up gen­er­ous enough pay raises to at­tract and re­tain em­ploy­ees.

Aver­age hourly wages rose 3.1 per­cent in Oc­to­ber from a year ear­lier, the fastest an­nual gain since 2009.

Still, in­fla­tion has picked up a bit in the past year as well, eat­ing away at someof those pay raises. And the in­crease in wages last month also partly re­flected a one-time drop in pay a year ago be­cause of Hur­ri­caneHar­vey.

Even so, Oc­to­ber’s in­crease sug­gests that af­ter a decade of ane­mic growth, wage growth is pick­ing up. At the same time, an in­flux of new job-seek­ers in­creased the pro­por­tion of Amer­i­cans with jobs to its high­est level since 2009.

The econ­omy has now added jobs for 97 straight months, a record.

That steady hir­ing has helped re­duce the un­em­ploy­ment rate for Lati­nos to 4.4 per­cent, a record low. Teenage un­em­ploy­ment dropped last month to 11.9 per­cent, the low­est since 1969. And the pro­por­tion of Amer­i­cans with­out a high school de­gree who are work­ing has reached the high­est point on records dat­ing from 1992.

“It doesn’t get any bet­ter than this,” said Sun Wong Sohn, chief econ­o­mist at SS Eco­nom­ics. “Ev­i­dently, the word has spread that there are good jobs to be had at de­cent­wages.”

Becky Frankiewicz, pres­i­dent of staffing firm Man­pow­erGroup North Amer­ica, said com­pa­nies are try­ing a va­ri­ety of strate­gies to fill jobs.

Many re­tail­ers are re­mov­ing the la­bel “sea­sonal” from their job post­ings and look­ing for per­ma­nent work­ers in­stead. Oth­ers are drop­ping their re­quire­ments for a col­lege de­gree.

“We ab­so­lutely see em­ploy­ers get­ting more and more cre­ative about ways to get peo­ple in,” Frankiewicz said.

By some mea­sures, con­sumers are the most con­fi­dent they have been in 18 years, and their spend­ing is pro­pel­ling brisk eco­nomic growth.

The eco­nomic ex­pan­sion is now the sec­ond­longest on record, and Oc­to­ber marked the 97th straight month of hir­ing, a record streak.

Strength in their cus- tomer de­mand has been a key fac­tor lead­ing com­pa­nies to steadily add work­ers.

Though economists have pre­dicted that hir­ing will even­tu­ally slow as the pool ofu­nem­ployedAmer­i­cans dwin­dles, there’s no sign of that hap­pen­ing yet.

The strong job growth and big­ger pay in­creases will likely en­cour­age the Fed­eral Re­serve to keep rais­ing short-term in­ter­est rates. Most an­a­lysts ex­pect the Fed to re­sume its rate hikes in De­cem­ber.

Hur­ri­cane Michael, which slammed into the Florida Pan­han­dle and south­ern Ge­or­gia last month, had no dis­cernible ef­fect on the jobs data, the gov­ern­ment said. Still, Oc­to­ber’s out­size gain might have re­flected, in part, a re­bound from Septem­ber, when Hur­ri­cane Florence de­pressed job growth.

Hir­ing in Oc­to­ber was strong in higher- and mid­dle-in­come jobs.

Pro­fes­sional and busi­ness ser­vices, which in­clude engi­neers, ar­chi­tects and ac­coun­tants, gained 35,000 jobs. Man­u­fac­tur­ers added 32,000 af­ter two months of smaller gains, de­fy­ing fears that Trump’s trade fights would slow hir­ing in that sec­tor. Con­struc­tion com­pa­nies added 30,000 po­si­tions.

LYNNE SLADKY/AP

Job-seek­ers fill out ap­pli­ca­tions ear­lier this year. Hourly wages rose 3.1 per­cent in Oc­to­ber from a year ear­lier.

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