After taking a beating in September from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the U.S. labor market rebounded in October with the biggest monthly jobs gain in more than a year, though the increase fell below economists’ expectations.
The Labor Department said employers added 261,000 jobs last month, following a revised 18,000 gain in September. With the revision from a decline of 33,000, the economy has now added jobs for 85 straight months, a record.
Economists had expected a gain of 310,000 jobs in October. Taking the last three months together, employers added on average 162,000 jobs a month, down from a monthly average of 177,000 in the first half of this year and 187,000 in 2016.
“The trend is rock-solid,” Ryan Sweet, director of real-time economics at Moody’s Analytics, told The New York Times. “The labor market just continues to chug along, and it’s showing very little evidence of slowing.”
Analysts expect the economy to keep adding around 150,000 jobs a month, on average, in the near term — well above the roughly 100,000 jobs needed to absorb the increase in the workforce population and keep the unemployment rate from rising.
After no new net hiring last year, the manufacturing sector has rallied, adding 156,000 workers in the last 12 months, including 24,000 in October. Last month also saw strong hiring among higher-paying professional and business services.
The unemployment rate in October was 4.1% against expectations it would hold steady at 4.2%. But average hourly earnings for all private-sector workers dropped a penny last month, to $26.53, after jumping 12 cents in September. Over the past 12 months, average pay for workers has risen just 2.4%.
“Throughout the recovery, there have been predictions that wage growth would accelerate as unemployment fell,” the NYT said. “And throughout the recovery, those hopes have been dashed.”
“I suspect we’ll continue to see healthy job growth, but at a slower pace as the recovery matures,” Jed Kolko, chief economist with employment website Indeed.com, told the Los Angeles Times. “The big question is whether continued growth will translate into higher wages or not.”