U.S. Added 266,000 Jobs in November. Here’s the Bottom Line.

on Dec8
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America’s job engine has again defied jittery stock traders, bearish forecasters and blue-ribbon economists to deliver eye-catching gains and power an exceptionally resilient economy.

November’s reassuring employment report, released Friday by the Labor Department, featured payroll increases of 266,000 and offered a counterpoint to recent anxieties about an escalating trade war and a weakening global economy.

“I think that this report is a real blockbuster,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor. “Payrolls smashed expectations.”

At 3.5 percent, November was the 21st consecutive month with an unemployment rate of 4 percent or lower. Revisions to earlier estimates brought the average monthly payroll gain for the past three months to 205,000, a substantial achievement for the 11th year of an economic expansion.

After the release, he returned to Twitter to celebrate the results.

The report’s dazzle was shadowed by a couple of weak patches. The return of tens of thousands of striking General Motors workers turbocharged the manufacturing numbers. But that closely watched sector remained anemic.

Newly created jobs surfaced in nearly every sector.

“Strong across the board is the message I get,” said Robert Rosener, an economist at Morgan Stanley. “The labor market is continuing to provide the key foundation for the U.S. economy.”

Mr. Dickey also pointed out that in the food industry, people can spend a lot of time in refrigerated warehouses or near industrial ovens. “It’s cold, it’s hot, it’s wet, the floors are slippery,” he said, “so there tends to be a fair amount of turnover.”

In a newsletter this week, David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Funds, compared recent hiring to squeezing one more glob of toothpaste out of a seemingly empty tube.

“Over the last few years,” he said, “an apparently fully tapped-out labor market has yielded a surprising number of new workers.”

The buffet of job postings has drawn many Americans back to work. Employers have widened their scope, recruiting people with disabilities or criminal records. Older baby boomers are working past retirement age, and stay-at-home parents are switching to paid employment.

Although it ticked down a notch last month, the labor force participation rate was inching up through most of the spring and fall, driven in part by an increase in women ages 25 to 34 who were getting jobs or starting to look for work. Over the last year, nearly 1.7 million people joined the ranks of workers.

Policymakers at the Federal Reserve have emphasized the importance of pulling people off the sidelines, and the latest report offers the central bank fresh reason to delay raising benchmark interest rates.

A broader measure of unemployment, which includes part-timers who would prefer full-time jobs and people who are too discouraged to look for work, crept down to 6.9 percent last month.

Just how many more people are available to work is hotly debated among economists.

Employment agencies say they are often unable to find candidates to fill the jobs that are open. “At every level of employment, it’s been super tight,” said Yvonne Rockwell, owner of an Express Employment Professionals agency in Santa Clarita, Calif. “I truly believe that anybody who wants to work is working.”

Southern California has a lot of aerospace companies, and she focuses on skilled trades and higher-level positions. “This is our best year ever,” said Ms. Rockwell, who opened her franchise five years ago.

The clamor for more workers may make it easier for people who want to turn temporary holiday jobs into permanent ones. Historically, about 4 percent to 7 percent of seasonal workers are hired, said Amy Glaser, senior vice president of the staffing firm Adecco. This season, she expects that 20 percent could be retained after the new year.

Taken together, the average payroll increases, the low jobless rate and the growing share of adults joining the work force point to a strong foundation, said Rubeela Farooqi, chief United States economist at High Frequency Economics. “I think the labor market over all is looking pretty healthy.”



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