U.S. Employers Hire at Healthy Rate in November, Unemployment Rate Holds at 4.1%

By Eric Morath and Sarah ChaneyFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

U.S. employers hired workers at a strong rate in November and the unemployment rate held at a 17-year low, signs the economy is on its firmest footing in at least a decade.

Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 228,000 in November, the Labor Department said Friday. The gain was stronger than the pace recorded this year through August, before hurricanes caused a sharp pullback in September followed by a rebound in October. Revised figures show employers added 38,000 jobs in September and 244,000 in October, for a net upward revision of 3,000.

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Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained at 4.1% last month, matching the lowest level since December 2000.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 195,000 new jobs and a 4.1% unemployment rate last month.

Wages improved last month, but gains remain relatively subdued. Average hourly earnings for private-sector workers increased 5 cents in November to $26.55, after falling the prior month. Wages rose 2.5% from a year earlier in November. Wage growth has failed to match the prerecession pace, despite a lower unemployment rate.

November marked the 86th straight month employers added to payrolls. The U.S. labor market is maintaining its strength at a time when other aspects of the global economy are on the upswing. Economic growth in the U.S. and Europe accelerated during the summer months and Japan is experiencing its longest sustained expansion in 16 years.

"Big emerging markets are doing much better compared to 2015 and 2016 and Europe is experiencing the strongest growth numbers in 10 years," Greg Daco, economist at Oxford Economics, said Thursday ahead of the jobs report's release. "That's giving U.S. businesses optimism."

A global economy hitting on all cylinders comes as U.S. lawmakers appear close to finalizing a tax overhaul that could add additional stimulus to domestic growth. It's difficult to say how much of November's hiring can be connected to the possibility of tax-policy changes. Job creation this year is slightly slower than 2016's pace, though that was anticipated as a tight labor market makes it difficult for firms to find available workers.

Friday's data will likely have little impact on the Federal Reserve's widely expected move to lift its benchmark interest rate at a meeting next week.

Central bankers, however, could be studying the unemployment rate and wage growth closely as they consider whether to raise rates more rapidly next year. Officials will release fresh economic projections next Wednesday. In September, they forecast the unemployment rate to end this year at 4.3%, and end next year at 4.1%.

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

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

The share of Americans participating in the labor force held steady at 62.7% in November. Participation has largely moved sideways the past two years, a positive sign that some Americans are being drawn in off the sidelines and helping to counter the trend of aging baby boomers retiring.

A broad measure of unemployment and underemployment that includes Americans stuck in part-time jobs or too discouraged to look for work ticked up to 8.0% in November from 7.9% the prior month. The October reading was the lowest since 2006.

The average workweek increased by about 6 minutes to 34.5 hours in November.

The Labor Department's employment report can be accessed at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.toc.htm

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 08, 2017 08:45 ET (13:45 GMT)