Workers enjoyed their best pay raises in seven years last month as employers added 161,000 jobs, the government said in the last major snapshot of a slow but durable economy before Americans choose a new president next week.
Friday’s report sketched a picture of a resilient job market that likely keeps the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates when it meets next month. Yet the economy remains pocketed by weaknesses that have left many feeling left behind on the eve of Election Day. Job gains have been steady, but pay raises have only recently become widespread. And millions of Americans are working part time but would prefer full-time work.
In October, the unemployment rate dipped to 4.9 percent from 5 percent, and the government said employers added more jobs in August and September than it had previously estimated.
An alternative gauge of joblessness that counts not only the officially unemployed but also the part-timers who’d prefer full-time work and people who have stopped looking for jobs, fell to 9.5 percent. That’s the lowest point since 2008. Still, it is higher than is typical in a healthy economy.
Average hourly pay took a big step up in October, 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.