Job Market Hums Along Despite GM Strike and Loss of Census Jobs

November 01, 2019

Employers added 128,000 jobs in October, despite a loss of 20,000 temporary census jobs and 42,000 jobs due to strike activity, as the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.6% and average hourly earnings for all employees increased 3.0% year-over-year, well above the 1.7% inflation rate.

Revisions to the preliminary August and September numbers added 95,000 jobs, bringing the latest three-month average to 176,000, though gains remain below 2018 levels (223,000).

Notably, hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees (3.5%), are rising at their fastest pace since 2008, and are increasing faster than supervisory employees.

Employers across a broad spectrum of industries added jobs:

  • Bars and restaurants (+47,500), 
  • Professional and business services (+22,000),
  • Social assistance (+19,600),
  • Financial activities (+16,000),
  • Health care (+14,600), and
  • Wholesale trade (+10,800).

Most other industries were little changed, with the exceptions of manufacturing (-36,000), which was strike related, and the federal government (-17,000), which was due to temporary census workers leaving their jobs.

Looking ahead:  According to the latest National Association of Business Economics outlook, “the odds of a recession remain generally low for the next 12 months” and the unemployment rate is projected to be 3.7% in 2020, with employee compensation increasing 3.3%.  However, the pace of hiring is projected to slow to an average 129,000 per month in 2020, down from 164,000 in 2019.