Key Takeaways From the U.S. Economy Adding 261,000 Jobs in October

The Labor Department released its official hiring and unemployment figures for October on Friday morning, providing the latest snapshot of the American economy.The numbersThe economy added 261,000 jobs last month. Wall Street economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a jump of 325,000 as the economy bounced back from September's hurricanes.In September, the economy gained 18,000 jobs, according to a revised estimate released Friday. The Bureau of Labor Statistics initially estimated that employers cut 33,000 jobs in September. The bureau also revised up its estimate of August jobs growth by 39,000 jobs.The unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, the lowest since December 2000. September's jobless rate was 4.2 percent.Average earnings fell by 1 cent an hour. They are up 2.4 percent over the past year.The key takeawayThe job market rebounded in October from its hurricane-induced September slump. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma had kept tens or even hundreds of thousands of workers away from work -- and off payrolls -- in Florida and Texas, depressing September's figures. Most of those employees returned to work in October, and the job market, like the economy overall, appears to be back on track. (Puerto Rico is still reeling from Hurricane Maria. The surveys that the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses for the monthly jobs report, however, do not include the island.)Now that the storms have passed, the focus can return to the central question for the U.S. job market: With unemployment low, when will wage growth accelerate? Average hourly earnings have been rising at an annual rate of about 2.5 percent in recent months -- faster than inflation but below the level most economists would expect with the unemployment rate below 4.5 percent. Friday's report offered little encouragement on that front, as hourly wages fell slightly from September and the year-over-year rate of growth slowed."It's certainly trending the right way, but it's surely still unexciting -- even unacceptable -- wage growth at this point," said Dan North, chief economist at Euler Hermes North America.Friday's numbers are preliminary and will be revised at least twice in coming months. They are also subject to large margins of error -- so consider the numbers, especially the month-to-month changes, with caution.  Continue reading...

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