United States jobless rate at lowest since 1969

Jermaine Castillo
October 8, 2018

The Labor Department said Hurricane Florence may have impacted jobs results, with leisure and hospitality employment down slightly after trending upwards over the last several months. But wage increases so far have been modest, something that puzzles economists but allows the Fed to move gradually. Economists have forecast that growth reached a 3 percent to 3.5 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter.

Will an economy at a 3.7 unemployment rate be able to add that many jobs in the next 12 months? This suggests that the tax cuts that took effect this year are boosting job opportunities.

Following this report, stock futures were lower, but little-changed, while Treasury yields were still near their highs of the week with the 10-year Treasury sitting near 3.21% and the 30-year near 3.38%.

The Fed's rate increases might be starting to bite. Data-collection rates were within normal ranges for both surveys. That category saw an 18 200 decrease in payrolls, according to the report.

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One of the main factors in the dip in the vacancies was likely to be Hurricane Florence, which struck North and SC at the beginning of September, closing thousands of businesses. It isn't clear, however, that economic data will have much effect at the polls. Job growth was a bit softer in September, but some of that was from Hurricane Florence, and it should bounce back through the rest of 2018 and into 2019. That's the result of higher hourly wages and hours worked.

Other reports indicate the weather volatility is fading.

Although just 134,000 new positions were added last month - far weaker than analysts expected - it was still enough to keep the overall unemployment rate at the lowest it has been since the end of 1969. The September gain extended an 8½-year streak of monthly job growth. Hiring data may show storm- related swings for October too, economists said. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, in health care, and in transportation and warehousing. That's consistent with other reports showing strength in such activity. There were also increases in petroleum imports. Still, the storm may have muddied measures of earnings and working hours. The 134K level is barely a maintenance level, a disappointment except for the context of Hurricane Florence.

Healthcare employment rose by 26,000 in September. "The standard measures just don't reflect those increases well, if at all".

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Average earnings rose 8 cents, to $27.24 per hour last month. The annual advance of 2.8% followed a 2.9% gain in August.

Another number that provides some insight is weekly wages.

Hourly pay edged up 0.3 percent for the month, and is 2.8 percent higher than the same month past year, a notch above inflation.

The rate remained unchanged in September at 62.7 percent of eligible workers in the workforce, down from a pre-recession rate of 66 percent. Many Americans will be looking at the employment rate, especially with the midterm elections coming in November.

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The labor force participation rate is still low compared to historic averages. The rate was actually 7.5 percent in September, when counting people who sought a job in the past year and also those with part-time jobs in want of a full-time one.

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