The numbers: The still-expanding economy created 155,000 new jobs in November to keep the unemployment rate at a 49-year low, a reassuring sign amid fresh worries over whether a nine-and-a-half-year-old expansion is starting to wobble.
Although hiring fell short of Wall Street expectations, the increase in new jobs was still double the number of people entering the labor force each month. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 190,000 gain in nonfarm jobs.
What’s more, an unexpected surge in hiring in 2018 has knocked the unemployment rate to the lowest level since 1969. The jobless rate remained at 3.7% for the third month in a row.
At the same time, the flush of new jobs is contributing to the fastest pay gains for workers in nine years. The amount of money the average worker earns rose 6 cents to $27.35 an hour last month.
The increase in pay over the past 12 months was unchanged at 3.1%, but that’s the biggest advance since 2009.
Rising wages is one of the factors likely to induce a Federal Reserve entrusted with controlling inflation to raise interest rates later this month. Beyond that the Fed’s strategy is less clear.
What happened: The increase in jobs was concentrated last month in health care, manufacturing, transportation and white-collar businesses.
Health-care providers hired 32,000 people. Manufacturers filled 27,000 jobs. Professional firms beefed up staff by 32,000. And employment in the transportation industry climbed by 25,000 as companies like Fedex FDX, -0.34% and UPS UPS, -0.51% geared up for holiday shopping.
Retailers also added to payrolls by 18,000, the first increase in three months.
Hiring in October and September was also a touch less than originally reported, the Labor Department reported.
Big picture: The U.S. has 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.
What’s more, the economy is on track to produce the most new jobs since 2015.
All the new hiring and extremely low unemployment are bulwarks against recession, but a rapid increase in wages is not an unalloyed good. How the Fed responds is likely to determine whether the economy continues to expand in 2019 or beyond or begin to peter out.
A festering trade dispute with China is another headwind. The longer it goes on the more damage it could cause to the economy.
What they are saying?: “Adding 155,000 jobs this month is not a disappointment,” said Martha Gimbel, director of economic research at Indeed Hiring Lab. She said the U.S. is still adding “twice the jobs that the economy needs to add each month to keep the unemployment rate steady.”
“None of the information released today represents a paradigm change for the economy—the labor market is strong and continues to get stronger,” said senior U.S. economist Eric Winograd of AllianceBernstein. “This, more than anything else, is the reason that the [Fed] remains likely to raise rates over the course of the next year.”
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.82% and S&P 500 SPX, -0.66% rose in early Friday trades, rebounding partly after two days of steep losses. Investors have grave doubts about whether the U.S. and China can resolve a festering dispute over trade.
The 10-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.37% rose slightly to 2.9%. Yields have tumbled from a seven-year high of almost 3.25% a month ago amid growing worries about whether the U.S. economy is bound to stumble.