US unemployment rate back at 50-year low

Washington (IANS) The United States’ headline unemployment rate fell by one-tenth of a percentage point in November to 3.5 per cent, matching the lowest level in a half-century, while the number of new jobs added last month – 266,000 – far exceeded economists’ expectations.

Those latest figures came from the Labour Department’s monthly “The Employment Situation” report, released on Friday, Efe news reported.

Hiring was particularly strong in November in the health care, leisure and hospitality and transportation and warehousing sectors.

The conclusion of an October strike by General Motors’ workers also helped give a boost to the labour market last month.

The Labour Department’s Bureau of Labour Statistics said non-farm payrolls grew by 266,000 last month and that job growth has averaged 180,000 a month so far in 2019, down from an average monthly gain of 223,000 last year.

Most economists were expecting fewer than 200,000 new jobs in November, according to major US media.

The so-called headline, or official, unemployment rate, known as U-3, came in at 3.5 percent. It had first fallen to that same level – the lowest since December 1969 – in September before edging up slightly in October.

But the U-3, which refers to total unemployed as a percentage of the civilian labour force, is just one of several measures used by the Labour Department’s Bureau of Labour Statistics in compiling its monthly report.

The U-6 measure, which includes people working part-time who would prefer a full-time position and workers who have given up looking for a job, came in at 6.9 per cent last month, down from 7 per cent in October.

The labour force participation rate – the share of the population 16 and over who are either working or seeking work – came in at 63.2 per cent in November, roughly the same level as in the mid-1970s and down from a peak of 67.3 per cent in January 2000.

Average hourly earnings for all private non-farm employees rose by $0.07 to $28.29 in November from a month earlier and have increased by 3.1 per cent over the past 12 months, the Labour Department said.

Last month marks just the second time since the 2009 global recession that hourly earnings rose 3 percent or more on an annual basis, and wages are expected to continue rising amid the current strong labour market.

US President Donald Trump took to Twitter after the release of the new figures, saying only, “GREAT JOBS REPORT!”

The strong labour market figures confirm that the American economy remains healthy despite a global slowdown and tensions between the US and several of its trading partners, particularly China.

The numbers also are seen as increasing the likelihood that the US Federal Reserve will keep its benchmark interest rate at its current target range of between 1.5 per cent and 1.75 per cent after the year’s final meeting of its policy-making body, scheduled for Dec. 10-11.

The central bank has lowered its federal-funds rate on three consecutive occasions since late July, although even before Friday’s jobs report Fed Chairman Jerome Powell had signalled that the current cycle of rate cuts has likely come to an end.

Trump, who was unhappy that the US economy’s growth slowed from a strong 3.1 per cent in the first quarter to 2 per cent in the second quarter and 2.1 per cent in the third, has frequently criticized Powell for not cutting interest rates more aggressively.

But he has removed the Fed chairman from his list of targets recently.

“Without the horror show that is the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, the Stock Markets and Economy would be even better, if that is possible,” he tweeted Friday.

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