Job Gains Remain Moderate as Wage Growth Remains Above Three Percent

December 07, 2018

While payroll jobs increased by 155,000 in November and average hourly earnings growth remained at 3.1 percent from a year ago—the largest gain since 2009—average monthly job gains over the past three months has cooled to 170,000, down from 220,000 in the prior three months.

The unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent, its lowest level since 1969, and employment growth in the household survey has averaged 418,000 per month, significantly higher than the 170,000 average in the business survey.

Some cracks in the job picture:  The number of people employed part-time for economic reasons increased by 234,000 in November, and the number of multiple job holders has increased over the past year.

Hourly wage growth varies by industry:  Information (5.6%), retail (4.3%), finance (4.3%), construction (3.7%), and leisure and hospitality (3.6%) all have strong above-average growth, while manufacturing (1.8%), wholesale trade (1.8%), and transportation and warehousing (1.4%) have much smaller wage gains.

Job gains were focused in six industries accounting for 91 percent of all job growth:

  • Health care (+32,100);
  • Manufacturing (+27,000);
  • Transportation and warehousing (+25,400);
  • Bars and restaurants (+21,200);
  • Retail trade (+18,200); and
  • Professional and technical services (+17,700).

Separately, the quit rate remains at its highest level since 2001 as workers continue to have confidence in the job market.

Looking ahead:  Trade and tariff issues, Federal Reserve rate increases, and slower global economic growth will continue to be a headwind for the foreseeable future.