U.S. employers added fewer jobs than expected in November but the labor market continues to expand at a fast enough rate to keep unemployment at the lowest level since 1969.
The Labor Department reported Friday that nonfarm payrolls increased by 155,000 for the month, below economists’ expectations of a 198,000 gain. October’s jobs count was revised lower from an initially reported 250,000 to 237,000.
But the United States added an average of 206,000 jobs a month through the first 11 months of 2018, above the 182,000 pace during the same period last year. Payrolls have now grown for 98 straight months.
For November, moreover, the unemployment rate was 3.7% for the third month in a row, while average earnings rose 0.2% to $27.35 an hour. The increase in pay over the past 12 months was unchanged at 3.1%, the biggest advance since 2009.
“Adding 155,000 jobs this month is not a disappointment,” Martha Gimbel, director of economic research at Indeed Hiring Lab, told MarketWatch, noting the United States is still adding “twice the jobs that the economy needs to add each month to keep the unemployment rate steady.”
Wall Street was somewhat jittery ahead of the jobs report amid concerns economic growth may be slowing as the stimulus from Republican tax cuts fades. Some economists are predicting a recession in 2020 and are calling for the Federal Reserve to slow the pace of interest rate hikes.
“Rising wages is one of the factors likely to induce a Federal Reserve entrusted with controlling inflation to raise interest rates later this month,” MarketWatch said. “Beyond that the Fed’s strategy is less clear.”
The Fed has generally been hiking at a once per-quarter pace since late 2016. The November jobs data “gives … ammunition” to Fed officials advocating caution, Omair Sharif, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, told The New York Times.
The November gain in jobs was concentrated in health care, manufacturing, transportation, and white-collar businesses. Economists noted October’s robust increase was somewhat inflated by a rebound in the Carolinas after Hurricane Florence idled workers in September.