“The October employment report,” writes Barron’s columnist Randall Forsyth, “was all that anybody could have hoped for, and more.” Indeed, the report “showed steady increases in the number of Americans working and continued moderate pay gains — which, in turn, is inducing more people to come off the sidelines and look for work.”
By now, you’ve probably seen the headline numbers: Non-farm payroll jobs increased by 128,000 — despite the (recently concluded) General Motors strike and the loss of 20,000 temporary Census jobs — crushing estimates of 75,000 or 85,000. The unemployment rate among blacks fell to yet another record low, and the total number of people employed rose to yet another record high. Year-over-year wage growth (i.e., growth in average hourly earnings) came in at 3 percent.
Yes, the overall unemployment rate ticked up from 3.5 percent to 3.6 percent, but it did so for positive reasons: America’s labor force increased by 325,000 people, and the overall labor-force-participation rate increased from 63.2 percent to 63.3 percent, its highest level since August 2013. Meanwhile, the employment-to-population ratio among prime-age adults (those aged 25 to 54) reached its highest level since January 2007.
On the negative side, manufacturing shed 36,000 jobs, both because of the GM strike and because of the ongoing U.S.–China trade war.
“All told, the report painted a picture of a job market that is weathering the storm of trade tensions and cooling global growth, largely because of a resilient, consumer-driven domestic economy,” writes Ben Casselman of the New York Times. “Combined with other recent data, [the report] suggests that fears of an imminent recession, which mounted over the summer, were overblown.”