U.S. gains a ro­bust 266,000 new jobs

Un­em­ploy­ment rate falls to 50-year low

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Christo­pher Ru­gaber

Hir­ing in the United States jumped last month to its high­est level since Jan­uary as U.S. em­ploy­ers shrugged off trade con­flicts and a global slow­down and added 266,000 jobs.

The un­em­ploy­ment rate dipped to 3.5% from 3.6% in Oc­to­ber, match­ing a half-cen­tury low, the La­bor Depart­ment re­ported Fri­day. And wages rose a solid 3.1% in Novem­ber com­pared with a year ear­lier.

In­vestors cheered the re­port, send­ing the Dow Jones in­dus­trial aver­age up 325 points in mid­day trad­ing.

Novem­ber’s healthy job gain runs against a wide­spread view that many em­ploy­ers are ei­ther de­lay­ing hir­ing un­til a break­through in the U.S.-China trade war is reached or are strug­gling to find work­ers with un­em­ploy­ment so low. The pace of hir­ing points to the re­silience of the job mar­ket and econ­omy more than a decade into the U.S. eco­nomic ex­pan­sion — the longest on record.

Steady job growth has helped re­as­sure con­sumers that the econ­omy is ex­pand­ing and that their jobs and in­comes re­main se­cure. Con­sumer spend­ing has be­come an even more im­por­tant driver of growth as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s trade con­flicts have re­duced ex­ports and led many busi­nesses to cut spend­ing.

“To­day’s jobs re­port, more than any other re­port in re­cent months, squashed any lin­ger­ing con­cerns about an im­mi­nent re­ces­sion in the U.S. econ­omy,” said Gad Le­vanon, an econ­o­mist at the Con­fer­ence Board, a busi­ness re­search group. “Con­sumers are en­ter­ing the hol­i­day sea­son with both the abil­ity and the will­ing­ness to spend.”

The healthy data sug­gested that the Fed­eral Re­serve, which meets next week, is un­likely to cut its bench­mark short-term in­ter­est rate any­time soon. The Fed has cut rates three times this year to help nur­ture the econ­omy.

At the same time, Chair­man Jerome Pow­ell has said the Fed is not in­clined to raise rates in re­sponse to ul­tra-low un­em­ploy­ment un­til in­fla­tion has risen con­sis­tently, which has yet to hap­pen. The per­cep­tion that any rate hikes are a long way off has helped un­der­pin the stock mar­ket’s gains.

Monthly job growth has picked up since sum­mer: It has av­er­aged 205,000 over the past three months, up from just 135,000 in July.

Fears that the U.S. econ­omy might slip into re­ces­sion peaked dur­ing the fall as the U.S.-China trade war in­ten­si­fied and fi­nan­cial mar­ket trends pointed to a down­turn in the coming year or two. That raised the pos­si­bil­ity that Trump would have to face a Demo­cratic op­po­nent next year against the backdrop of a strug­gling econ­omy.

But Fri­day’s fig­ures paint a some­what rosier pic­ture of the econ­omy. And some risks to global growth, such as a dis­or­derly Brexit for the U.K., have faded in the past month. Most economists are pre­dict­ing mod­est growth for next year.

Re­newed con­cerns that trade will continue to ham­per the U.S. econ­omy drove stock prices lower ear­lier this week, af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had said he was will­ing to wait un­til af­ter the 2020 elec­tions to strike a pre­lim­i­nary trade agree­ment with China. With the two sides still hag­gling, the ad­min­is­tra­tion is set to im­pose 15% tar­iffs on an ad­di­tional $160 billion of Chi­nese im­ports be­gin­ning Dec. 15.

Both sides have since sug­gested that the ne­go­ti­a­tions are mak­ing progress, but there is still no sign of a res­o­lu­tion.

The re­turn of strik­ing Gen­eral Mo­tors au­towork­ers added roughly 40,000 jobs in Novem­ber, a one­time bounce-back that fol­lowed a sim­i­lar de­cline in Oc­to­ber, when the GM strik­ers weren’t counted as em­ployed. Ex­clud­ing the strik­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs showed a small gain.

Fri­day’s data in­cluded other pos­i­tive news: The gov­ern­ment re­vised up its es­ti­mate of job growth for Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber by a com­bined 41,000.

Out­size hir­ing for the hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son did not ap­pear to be a ma­jor driver of last month’s job growth. Re­tail­ers added just 2,000 jobs on a sea­son­ally ad­justed ba­sis. And trans­porta­tion and ware­hous­ing firms gained fewer than 16,000. Both fig­ures are be­low last year’s Novem­ber to­tals. The shop­ping sea­son is shorter this year be­cause Thanks­giv­ing oc­curred later than in re­cent years, which might be de­lay­ing some tem­po­rary hir­ing.

Most an­a­lysts say they re­main hope­ful about the econ­omy and the job mar­ket. The econ­omy grew at a 2.1% an­nual rate in the July-Septem­ber

quar­ter, and the an­nual pace is thought to be slow­ing to roughly 1.5% to 2% in the fi­nal three months of the year — slug­gish but not re­ces­sion­ary.

Con­sumer con­fi­dence has slipped in re­cent months but re­mains at a de­cent level, help­ing boost sales of ex­pen­sive pur­chases, such as au­tos and ap­pli­ances.

The Fed’s three in­ter­est rate cuts have helped low­ered mort­gage rates and sup­ported the hous­ing mar­ket. Sales of ex­ist­ing homes have risen nearly 5% in the past year. Sales of new homes have soared by one-third.

LYNNE SLADKY — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Peo­ple wait in line to in­quire about job open­ings with Mar­shalls dur­ing a job fair at Dol­phin Mall in Miami. On Fri­day, Dec. 6, the U.S. gov­ern­ment is­sued the Novem­ber jobs re­port.

LYNNE SLADKY — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Peo­ple in­quire about tem­po­rary po­si­tions avail­able for the 2020 Cen­sus dur­ing a job fair de­signed for peo­ple 50 years or older in Miami. On Fri­day, Dec. 6, the U.S. gov­ern­ment is­sued the Novem­ber jobs re­port.

JOHN LOCHER — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Balo Ba­lo­gun la­bels items in prepa­ra­tion for a hol­i­day sale at a Wal­mart Su­per­center in Las Ve­gas. On Fri­day, Dec. 6, the U.S. gov­ern­ment is­sued the Novem­ber jobs re­port.

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