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US hiring slower but steady as employers add 155K jobs

U.S. businesses added a smaller but still-healthy number of jobs last month, while the unemployment rate remained at a five-decade low and wages rose at a solid clip.

Posted: Dec 7, 2018 11:54 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses added a smaller but still-healthy number of jobs last month, while the unemployment rate remained at a five-decade low and wages rose at a solid clip.

The figures, released Friday by the Labor Department, point to an economy that is still adding jobs at a steady rate after nearly 10 years of recovery. So far, employers are mostly shrugging off the financial market turmoil of the past two months and rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in November, down from a more robust 237,000 in October. The unemployment rate remained 3.7%, nearly a five-decade low, for the third straight month. Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago, matching the previous month's figure, which was the best since 2009.

The economy is expanding robustly, with growth reaching 3.9 percent at an annual rate over the summer and fall, the best six-month pace in four years. Still, ongoing interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, the Trump administration's threats of higher tariffs on China, and weakening global growth have roiled financial markets and raised fears about the U.S. economy's future.

Investors initially bid up stocks after the report's release, but financial markets fell in mid-day trading. The Dow Jones dropped 375 points, or 1.5 percent. That followed a small decline Thursday and an 800 point drop Tuesday.

November's jobs figure could portend a slower expansion next year, economists said, as the stimulus from last year's tax cuts wears off and higher borrowing costs weigh on home sales and business investment. But most analysts anticipate the economy will still grow.

"The economy continues to churn out new jobs and reflects the strong underlying business conditions that point to steady, albeit slower job growth and economic activity in 2019," said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at consulting firm RSM. "This report strongly implies that a recession is not looming just over the horizon."

The report is unlikely to dissuade the Federal Reserve from raising short-term interest rates at its meeting later this month, as expected, Brusuelas said. But it suggests the Fed may not hike rates next year as rapidly as many investors have feared.

The ongoing job gains are pushing down unemployment rates to historically low levels for a variety of groups. The unemployment rate for men aged 20 and above fell last month to 3.3%, the lowest in 18 years. And the rate for Americans with just high school diplomas dropped to 3.5%, the lowest since December 2000. The African-American jobless rate declined to 5.9%, matching May's figure as the lowest on record.

It's also become more challenging for businesses to find the workers they need. Employers have posted 7 million open jobs, outnumbering the ranks of the unemployed, which fell last month to just under 6 million.

Michael Mabry, chief operating officer at Mooyah, a fast-causal burger chain mostly located the south, says his company has had to raise pay and offer more flexible scheduling to attract new workers. The company plans to open 15 locations next year, which could create up to 450 new jobs.

Applications have fallen "to an all-time low," Mabry said. The company focuses most of its efforts on recruiting employees from other restaurants, including those that might work later hours at places that serve alcohol. His restaurants close at 10 p.m.

"We've had to get competitive on work-life balance," Mabry said. Nearly all employees make at least $10 an hour, and management salaries have risen 5 to 10 percent in the past year, he added.

Hiring in November was led by health care firms, which added 40,100 jobs, and professional services such as accounting and engineering, which gained 32,000. Manufacturing companies hired 27,000 new workers, the most in seven months and a sign that trade tensions have yet to weaken factory hiring.

Lydia Boussour, senior economist at Oxford Economics, said that continuous job gains and rising pay has bolstered consumer confidence, offsetting the impact of falling stock prices. Greater confidence has boosted holiday shopping.

Retailers responded by adding 18,200 positions in November, the most in six months. Online spending has lifted shipping and warehousing jobs, which grew 25,400, the largest in 14 months.

Most recent data have pointed to an economy in solid shape. Americans increased their spending in October by the most in seven months, and their incomes grew by the most in nine months, according to a government report last week. Consumer confidence remains near 18-year highs, surveys show. And both manufacturing and services companies expanded at a healthy pace in November, according to a pair of business surveys.

The housing market, though, has stumbled this year as the Fed's rate hikes have contributed to sharply higher mortgage rates. Sales of existing homes have fallen 5.4% from a year earlier, the biggest annual decline in more than four years.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 38569

Reported Deaths: 1511
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12456787
Ramsey4911228
Dakota238291
Stearns237119
Anoka2241109
Nobles16696
Olmsted112915
Washington111440
Mower9522
Rice8447
Scott7344
Clay58738
Kandiyohi5731
Blue Earth4792
Wright4755
Todd4012
Carver3811
Sherburne3175
Lyon3162
Freeborn2920
Watonwan2340
Steele2311
Benton2173
St. Louis18015
Martin1695
Nicollet16912
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Goodhue1318
Winona12515
Crow Wing10612
Pine1050
Le Sueur1031
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Otter Tail951
McLeod920
Carlton870
Dodge870
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Chippewa791
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Rock310
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Fillmore300
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Wilkin213
Norman200
Redwood180
Cass162
Roseau160
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Koochiching151
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Kanabec141
Grant120
Marshall120
Lincoln100
Pope100
Mahnomen91
Clearwater80
Hubbard70
Lake60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 31670

Reported Deaths: 722
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6638179
Woodbury325244
Black Hawk230158
Buena Vista171411
Johnson13148
Linn129482
Dallas128029
Marshall104919
Scott81510
Story7793
Pottawattamie73612
Wapello70830
Dubuque70222
Crawford6772
Muscatine64344
Sioux4770
Tama46529
Wright3861
Louisa36213
Jasper32517
Plymouth3225
Warren2901
Dickinson2663
Washington2439
Webster2292
Hamilton1891
Cerro Gordo1821
Boone1481
Clay1340
Clarke1322
Allamakee1314
Mahaska11617
Shelby1140
Clinton1121
Poweshiek1068
Carroll991
Pocahontas971
Bremer946
Des Moines922
Franklin900
Emmet880
Henry863
Cedar841
Taylor790
Hardin770
Monona770
Cherokee751
Floyd732
Marion700
Benton691
Guthrie664
Jefferson640
Sac640
Osceola620
Jones610
Butler572
Buchanan551
Humboldt551
Hancock540
Harrison540
Lee542
Calhoun532
Iowa530
Delaware511
Fayette510
Monroe516
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Clayton443
Lyon440
Davis411
Palo Alto410
Mitchell390
Winneshiek390
Grundy380
Mills370
Kossuth350
Howard340
Jackson320
Lucas314
Greene300
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Ida240
Cass230
Van Buren220
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