US employers add solid 161K jobs; wages up by most since ’09


WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added a decent 161,000 jobs in October and raised pay sharply for many workers. It was the final major report on a lukewarm but durable economy before Americans choose a new president next week.

The Labor Department’s monthly employment report Friday sketched a picture of a resilient job market. The pace of hiring has been consistent with a decent economy, yet one also pocketed by weaknesses that have left many Americans feeling left behind on the eve of Election Day.

Last month’s job growth helped cut the unemployment rate to 4.9 percent from 5 percent. And average hourly pay took a big step up, rising 10 cents an hour to an average of $25.92. That is 2.8 percent higher than a year ago and is the sharpest 12-month rise in seven years.

“If you wanted to show that the economy is still getting better for the typical voter, this report gives you what you needed,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist with Indeed, the job site.

The pickup in pay follows a substantial increase last year in earnings for the typical household. The economy appears to be finally delivering widespread raises after years of sluggish pay gains. With the unemployment rate near healthy levels, businesses are likely having to try harder to attract workers.

When businesses are forced to offer higher pay, they may raise prices to cover the costs, potentially boosting inflation. That dynamic has helped make it likely that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates for the first time this year when it meets next month.

“The only remaining obstacle to the Fed hiking in December would be a significant adverse financial market reaction to the US presidential election,” Chris Williamson, an economist at IHS Markit, wrote in a research note.

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