U.S. job growth likely increased at a strong clip in November and wages rebounded as the distortions from the recent hurricanes faded, creating a portrait of a healthy economy that analysts say does not require the kind of fiscal stimulus that President Donald Trump is proposing.
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According to a Reuters survey of economists, the Labor Department's closely watched employment report on Friday will likely show that nonfarm payrolls rose by 200,000 jobs last month after surging 261,000 in October.
Employment gains in October were boosted by the return to work of thousands of employees who had been temporarily dislocated by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. November's report will be the first clean reading since the storms, which also impacted September's employment data.
The unemployment rate is forecast to be unchanged at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. Average hourly earnings are expected to have risen 0.3 percent in November after being flat the prior month. That would lift the annual increase in wages to 2.7 percent from 2.4 percent in October.
Readings in line with expectations would underscore the economy's strength and fuel criticism of efforts by Trump and his fellow Republicans in the U.S. Congress to cut the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent.
"The labor market is in great shape. Tax cuts should be used when the economy needs tax cuts and it doesn't need tax cuts right now," said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.
"When politics and economics are mixed in the stew, the policies that are created often have a very awful smell."
Republicans argue that the proposed tax cut package will boost the economy and allow companies to hire more workers. But with the labor market near full employment and companies reporting difficulties finding qualified workers, economists disagree. Job openings are near a record high.
"Companies want workers and do not need tax cuts to give them the financial wherewithal to hire more workers," said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. "It's labor, that the economy is running out of."
The economy grew at a 3.3 percent annualized rate in the third quarter, the fastest in three years.
While November's employment report will probably have little impact on expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates at its Dec. 12-13 policy meeting, it could help shape the debate on monetary policy next year.
The U.S. central bank has increased borrowing costs twice this year. It has forecast three rate hikes in 2018.
Job growth has averaged 168,000 jobs per month this year, down from the average monthly gain of 187,000 in 2016. A slowdown in job growth is normal when the labor market nears full employment.
The economy needs to create 75,000 to 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population. The unemployment rate has declined by seven-tenths of a percentage point this year. Economists believe that the tightening labor market will unleash a faster pace of wage growth next year.
That, combined with the tax cuts, would help boost inflation.
"I think that in the next three to six months we will see a broader uptick in wage pressures," said David Donabedian, chief investment officer of CIBC Atlantic Trust in Baltimore.
"Given where we are in the economic cycle, if you throw some gasoline in the fire with fiscal stimulus, that will ultimately spark some higher inflation."
Employment gains were likely broad in November. Construction payrolls are expected to show strong growth, thanks in part to rebuilding efforts in the areas devastated by the hurricanes.
Another month of steady increases is expected in manufacturing employment, while hiring for the holiday season likely boosted retail payrolls. Retailers, including Macy's Inc, reported strong Black Friday sales.
Macy's said this month it would hire an additional 7,000 temporary workers for its stores to deal with heavy customer traffic in the run up to Christmas.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)